If Pizzeria Vetri had opened five years ago, Marc Vetri’s Fairmount pizzeria might have been greeted with a parade on par with what the World Champion Phillies received. But in 2013, excellent pizza abounds in Philly. Our children know to check for leoparding spots and blister marks on their slices. Bufala mozzarella and crushed San Marzano tomatoes have us yawning in complacency (like a 2010 Phillies fan). Yes, our pizza scene has come a long way, and on any given day, one of a half-dozen spots might pull the best pizza in town out of its wood-fired oven. But Pizzeria Vetri is certainly in that mix, and as part of Vetri’s stable of restaurants, it certainly has access to great ingredients. Fresh basil pops here. The fennel in the sausage provides a slightly sweet snap. But when you come to Pizzeria Vetri, get the specialty items, like the rotolo—a savory relative of the cinnamon roll that layers pizza dough, mortadella, fresh ricotta and pistachios in a seductive starter you won’t want to share. Combine this with a slice of Roman-style pizza al taglio and a glass of draft wine, and you’ve concocted a winning team—certainly way better than what the Phillies put together this season.
1939 Callowhill Street
German food ain’t exactly sexy (when’s the last time someone said to you, “I’m craving German”?), but Austrian Village on the outskirts of Northeast Philly is something better than sexy: It’s awesome. The German-social-club atmosphere (complete with oom-pah-pah band on most Saturdays) is old-school cool, but the authentic, hearty fare is the real star: succulent schnitzels; tangy sauerbraten; goulash smothered in paprika gravy; and founder Lotte Burits’s legendary German potato salad—the most addictive thing I’ve ever eaten. Then there are the prices: Entrées average $12, and a beer costs half of what you’d pay downtown. Oom-pah-pah indeed.
321 Huntingdon Pike
First appeared in the November issue of Philadelphia magazine.
Mistral in Princeton lands reviews in the New York Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer this week. Scott Anderson and business partner, Stephen Distler who also on Elements in Princeton, opened the BYOB in May with Ben Nerenhausen as the chef de cuisine. Both the Times’ Fran Schumer and the Inquirer’s Craig LaBan gave the Mistral a “very good” rating. Both highlighted the octopus and scallops. LaBan definitely had problems with service (they lost his reservation on one occasion) or he might have even rated it higher.
Small Plates, and a Taste of Many Cultures [New York Times]
Mistral helps put Princeton in culinary Ivy League [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Mistral [Philadelphia Magazine]
Late Summer Farmstead Collection | Photo by Courtney Apple
Trey Popp says it’s a shame that Talula’s Daily’s chef Scott Megill’s dinner was interrupted by a sales pitch.
But somewhere before dessert and the individually tailored cheese course, our cheerful waitress broke the enchantment of Aimee Olexy’s ode to homespun coziness by delivering what you’d have to call a sales pitch. Everything on the table, she divulged, was a product for sale by Anthropologie.
Two-and-a-half stars – Good to Excellent
Philadelphia Restaurant Review: Talula’s Daily [Philadelphia Magazine]
Talula’s Daily [Philadelphia Magazine]
BBQ Lamb with cumin flavor. Photo by Jason Varney.
Trey Popp reviews Xi’An Sizzling Woks (formerly Xi’An Famous Food) in Chinatown. There he discovers a side of pickled garlic cloves that set the tone for his glowing review.
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Brian Freedman finds that Shifty’s Taco is a good reason to head west on Girard Avenue.
[T]he tacos here are Shifty’s raison d’être, and on that count, Chef Geoff Gabrick and his team (including Jeb Woody of Honey’s and Zack Shell of El Fuego) acquit themselves admirably. The Rub was a highlight, its tender strings of braised brisket singing a song of adobo and chipotles, the slow simmering heat building yet never cresting: Lovely. The Hem and Hawl, on the other hand, demonstrated the kitchen’s aptitude with fish. Well-cooked and tender tilapia done on the plancha was anchored by an attractive slaw that, though it could have been a touch brighter, nonetheless brought enough crunch and liveliness to each bite to win me over.
Excellent new tacos at Shifty’s on Girard [Philadelphia Weekly]
Shifty’s Taco [Foobooz]
Photo by Neal Santos.
Adam Erace returns to Jose Pistola’s to try the menu of Adan Trinidad. The former El Vez kitchen-hand has returned to Philadelphia after a stint in New York and he has Pistola’s firing.
Some of Trinidad’s plates, like the glistening tiradito of raw fluke splashed with yuzu and freckled with togarashi, made me want to take a sledgehammer to the overbearing sound system, twist 200-watt bulbs into the overhead sockets and lay a white cloth over my table. Fruity, spicy, sour and fresh, the food demanded a bit more attention.
Thanks to a new chef, the food at Jose Pistola’s lives up to the lofty beer list [City Paper]
Jose Pistola’s [Foobooz]
Adam Erace reviews Marc Vetri’s temple of pizza, Pizzeria Vetri, and comes away impressed.
They all begin with a dough that eschews oil, per Neapolitan doctrine, and cooks up with a crisp crust and soft but structured center. Most follow with an aurora of the bright, tangy tomato sauce, then a collection of toppings, like house-made sausage, mozzarella, roasted fennel and fennel fronds. That pie, the Salsiccia, was great, but I liked the straightforward Margherita even better.
The shiniest new addition to the Vetri Family is turning out serious pies [City Paper]
Pizzeria Vetri [Foobooz]
If I were opening an Italian restaurant, I probably wouldn’t give it a name that’s one letter away from a mid-range frozen pizza brand. But that’s not the real problem at Fraschetta, a Main Line newcomer that debuted a few months back. And the problem isn’t bad service or food, either (though we did have to send back the “special” steak for being ridiculously undercooked and terribly underseasoned). The problem, simply, is noise. Some restaurants are loud. Some restaurants are so unbelievably effing loud that the loudness almost ruins the evening by turning every conversation into a shouting match. Such is the case at this spot from the owners of Center City’s Melograno. After my friends and I yelled at each other across our plates of generally good food, and then paid the sizable check (more than $200 for four of us, BYO) with cash, since Fraschetta annoyingly doesn’t take plastic, we all just decided never to go back.
816 West Lancaster Avenue
First appeared in the October, 2013 issue of Philadelphia magazine.
When Adam Ritter first described his ideal customer for Kermit’s Bake Shoppe, I wondered just how many people out there were looking to grab a pizza, salad, and cake for a party all from the same place and all on the same day. But now that this combination bakery and pizza shop is open, I find myself inventing such scenarios. It’s your birthday? How about I bring a massive antipasto salad of shredded genoa salami, pepperoncini and roasted red peppers? Eagles game? In addition to that sausage-and-pepper pizza, would you prefer a fruit tart or the “24 Carat” carrot cake from pastry chef (and Next Great Baker competitor) Chad Durkin? The possibilities here are endless, and so is the potential at this collaborative effort between Ritter (who also owns the Sidecar and Kraftwork gastropubs), Durkin, and Sidecar chef Brian Lofink. After months of testing, the triumvirate is turning out a pizza crust that’s thin but not Neapolitan, with a winning combination of crunch and chew. The sauce is slightly sweet, but not saccharine.
On the bakery side, Durkin has been set loose, whipping up fresh breads daily as well as cookies, house-made pop tarts, a phenomenal butterscotch pecan brownie, and other tantalizing confections.
Not everything is a runaway success—the chicken spaetzle soup lacked any chicken (which kind of makes it an automatic failure), but maybe that’s for the best, since the house-smoked chicken added to a salad had too many bits of cartilage and sinew. But these are small hiccups for the ambitious bakeshop on the border of Graduate Hospital and Point Breeze.
My biggest question remains, how am I going to rationalize eating three croissants on a Saturday morning?
Kermit’s Bake Shoppe
2204 Washington Avenue
First appeared in the October, 2013 issue of Philadelphia magazine.