Restaurant Review: The Best Food at Pizzeria Vetri Isn’t the Pizza

Try the rotolo instead. Here, Trey Popp talks floppy pies, too-thin crusts, and why slapping Marc Vetri’s name on a pizzeria doesn’t necessarily make it any good.

Photo by Courtney Apple.

Photo by Courtney Apple.

I was wrapping up lunch at Pizzeria Vetri when a gentleman approached my table. He was skinny and stooped-over and appeared to be in dire straits. Very politely, he asked for help getting a little food. I handed him the last slice of my rosemary-and-mozzarella pie.

A black blister had erupted from the only part of the wedge that wasn’t overburdened with cheese. The slice flopped over in his grasp, as the rest had in mine.

“Is this what they gave you at this restaurant?” he asked.

“Yes,” I nodded, attempting a reassuring smile.

His brow creased. “Were they angry with you?”

That was a little less polite. Save for one flighty server overcome by the dinner onslaught, Pizzeria Vetri’s staff was exceptionally pleasant on all four of my visits. And doubly so when my lunch date required a kiddie cup. Yet my unexpected visitor wasn’t totally off the mark. Pizzeria Vetri has many things to recommend it, but consistently good pizza isn’t one of them.

You might get lucky. I did. Once. It was with the Melanzana pie—creamy clumps of stracciatella and richly oily eggplant slices complementing the perfect tang of crushed San Marzanos, all on a masterfully crispy yet pliant Neapolitan-style crust. It was as good as any pizza I’ve had at Osteria, which sets the standard in this city (and is the inevitable measuring stick for any restaurant bearing Marc Vetri’s name).

The problem, though, was the other five pizzas I tried. One was okay, but four were literal flops—a problem whose origin became clear one day when I sat at the spiffy white-marble pizza-assembly counter and watched anxiously as a dough-stretcher strained the center of one 13-inch disk after another into a barely visible film. I couldn’t believe they weren’t popping. No wonder my margherita and fennel-sausage pies kept collapsing under their own weight.

The further away I got from the pizza menu, though, the better Pizzeria Vetri got. There are lovely salads: arugula and roasted fingerlings slathered with killer pesto, and a “wood oven” salad that’s a belly-filling medley of corn, chanterelles, blistered green beans and top-drawer ham, studded with ricotta salata. There’s exceptionally fresh-tasting kegged wine from the Gotham Project, and bottled sloe-gin fizzes and Americanos that serve two for $12. The rotolos are instantly the best savory pastry in town: crispy pizza dough coiled Cinnabon-style around mortadella and ricotta, doused with pistachio pesto.

I also loved one of my two Sicilian-style slices of the day, which played like a puffy, crispy focaccia decked with roasted pears and gorgonzola. And I’ll go back for all those things.

But in the future, I’ll order the pizza with lower expectations.

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  • Ray Ray

    Review is SPOT on. We had two pizza’s that were both “meh” but we also got a pint of their house made espresso ice cream along with a bag of their home made Italian cookies. We took the biscotti (the cookies are a variety of types) and crumbled them over the ice cream. One of the best desserts I’ve had in the city.

  • Phil E. Pretzel

    Vetri has the talent – but maybe not the attention. I haven’t been there yet, so I cannot judge. But I CAN tell you about the best pies in Philly and the region:

  • Pizza Lover

    Just an FYI Neapolitan (pizza from Naples) pizza isn’t supposed to be crispy. True Neapolitan pizza cooks at a very hot 750 – 850 degree temperatures for about 60-80 seconds and develops a leoparding. Roman style pizza (Like Osteria) and New York Style pizza cook at a much lower temperature for a much longer time and develop a more golden brow and crispy texture. It’s very counter intuitive that a hotter oven doesn’t make a crispier pizza but thats the way it is.