Our city has some of the finest pizza this side of paradise. I counted the weeks before my first taste of Marc Vetri’s pizza at his month-old pizzeria on Callowhill Street just across the street from the Barnes Foundation.
Pizzeria Vetri is an airy space with simple, long tables and a counter where patrons can watch several men stretch dough, top the pies with the finest ingredients and place them in the oven before they are lovingly brought out piping hot.
The restaurant was filled to capacity, inside and outside, so Edward and I decided to do take-out and make a return visit a few days later.
The crudo pizza ($18) was packed with flavor. Thinly-sliced, slightly salty imported prosciutto was the star of the pie along with bufala mozzarella and Parmigiano-Reggiano. The thin-and-crisp crust was slightly charred, which imparted a smoky flavor that was most enjoyable.
The Italian Caesar salad ($10) was an interesting twist to this starter that appears on hundreds of menus. Slightly bitter, crisp escarole served as a bed for hard-cooked eggs, anchovies, Parmigiano-Reggiano and croutons fashioned from bits of pizza dough. Since this was a take-out order, the bagna cauda dressing was served on the side. Bagna cauda is a warm, buttery dip, laced with olive oil, and used as a dip for vegetables in Italy. The flavors melded beautifully as soon as we dressed the tossed the salad.
Arugula salad ($8) was another tasty dish. Spicy baby arugula was topped with small slices of fingerling potatoes that were cooled before serving. A scattering of small and salty black olives were included for texture and topped with a pesto dressing.
On the dine-in visit, Edward and I arrived early to insure seats at the counter. I sipped a glass of Indie Wineries N2 Rosso ($9.50), a dry, slightly spicy red while Edward tried the Gotham Project Pinot Grigio ($8.50). Both are available by the carafe as well.
The rotolo ($3.50 each) is a “specialita della casa.” Do not miss this unusual treat made from pizza dough. They looked like savory cinnamon buns. The dough was layered with imported mortadella, studded with pistachio nuts, light and creamy ricotta cheese and rolled up. They are topped with pesto made with roasted pistachio nuts and served. This was a first for me. I have never seen these savory treats anywhere and they whetted my appetite for the next course.
Wood oven salad ($12) consisted of roasted sweet corn, heady chanterelle mushrooms (my favorite), green beans, prosciutto cotta and another favorite, ricotta salata. One may not think these ingredients would work together, but they certainly did. The flavors and textures of the vegetables were not overpowered by the prosciutto, and I enjoyed the inclusion of the cheese. I never tried ricotta salata in a salad; I usually eat it at the end of dinner with some fruit.
Next up was the salsiccia ($16), a pizza prepared with fennel sausage, roasted fennel, tomato sauce and mozzarella. Thinly-sliced fennel imparts a marvelous licorice flavor and aroma when eaten with bits of sausage. I appreciate the use of about one ladleful of tomato sauce on the pizzas at Pizzeria Vetri. Too much sauce can overpower the other ingredients.
The calzone ($16) was the only disappointment. We found the tomato sauce made the dough soggy. A bit more ricotta and prosciutto were needed.
Pizzeria Vetri is a family restaurant. One man carried his baby in a snuggly while kids were having fun tucking into pizza. We found the noise coming from the sound system to be distracting. A gentleman came over to us and brought us a dolci of soft serve fiordilatte and cappuccino ($10) in an old-fashioned sundae glass with his compliments. Italian vanilla and coffee soft ice cream, not too sweet, was a fitting end to dinner.
Does Philly have some of the best pizza on the East Coast? You bet. Especially at Pizzeria Vetri.
Four tips of the toque to Pizzeria Vetri.
1939 Callowhill St.
Contact the South Philly Review at firstname.lastname@example.org.