Marc Vetri: La Dolce Vetri

With wild accolades from foodies far and wide and plans afoot for a third restaurant, Marc Vetri has surpassed Georges Perrier as the city’s most influential chef. But can a quiet, speech-impaired guitar-hero wannabe really cement Philadelphia as America’s next great food city?

“HE CAME REALLY close to proposing to Audrey,” says his friend and former neighbor, PR maven Tina Breslow. “He’s a quiet guy — and then there’s Audrey, who’s very outgoing. Sometimes I worried about that. He was going to lose himself in her. But he was very romantic and very much in love.” In the end, it didn’t work out, and Vetri says now that dating someone in the restaurant business is “crazy.” Four years ago, after yoga class, he struck up a conversation with a pretty, petite woman 11 years his junior. (“We practiced next to one another for a year and never said a word,” he reports.) He and Megan Williams-Kief dated for nine months and married six months after that. They have two children: Maurice, nearly three, and Catherine, nine months. At one point during the inauguration party in Washington, David Alperin sidled up to me and said, “You know, a few years ago Marc would always say, ‘All I ever want to do is what I’m doing: cooking at Vetri.’ But I don’t believe he’s thinking that way so much these days.” (Vetri and Benjamin recently set up the Vetri Foundation for Children; its main beneficiary is Alex’s Lemonade Stand, for which they throw an annual celebrity-chef dinner gala that raised about $250,000 last year.)

In the empty Vetri dining room, I pulled out an Amtrak magazine I’d grabbed in Union Station that weekend. On the cover was Gordon Ramsay, the poster boy for how to exploit the celebrity-chef phenomenon; he has restaurants on several continents. “It’s safe to say,” says food critic Alan Richman, “that no matter how talented a chef he is, no regular person will ever again go to one of his restaurants and actually eat a meal prepared by Gordon Ramsay, or even prepared by a cook who’s had Gordon Ramsay look over his shoulder.”


Vetri glanced at the cover photo of the famously profane Scot who now plays a chef on TV. “I don’t look at these guys as that they’re selling out,” he said. “I mean, these are the guys who are making the industry more — what’s the word? — more popular. Guys like this — or Wolfgang, Bobby Flay, Tom Colicchio. Every one of them I know, they all love to cook. They all kind of just want to hop on the line and work. They also have that certain quality that makes them want to do some other things. I don’t think it’s just a negative. People say, ‘Ah, he sold out.’ Why did he sell out? He’s working; he’s opening up restaurants. Why is that a sellout? Just because I don’t want to do all these other things, like I don’t want to open up a restaurant in Australia … It’s just not, you know, for everybody. I’m on my route.”