Monday, November 25, 2013

Review: Vetri's Osteria Comes To South Jersey

The wait is over.
Celebrated chef Marc Vetri has brought his Osteria eatery to the South Jersey. The new Osteria opened last week in the Moorestown Mall fronting Route 38 between Sears and Boscov's.
Osteria in the mall? Really?
Yeah -- sorta.
Osteria does have an entrance from the mall but the main entrance is from the mall's front parking lot.
This new Osteria is very much like the widely-acclaimed original outlet on North Broad Street in Philadelphia -- the same wall of wood wine box labels, the same exposed brick and beams, the same types of tables and seating, the same soft, golden lighting, the same no-nonsense feel that bespeaks a kind of carefully refined informality.
Of course, this outlet is smaller. But that just makes it all the more cozy and far less noisy. By comparison to the original, this new Osteria is almost intimate. But it still has industrial touches.
The bar is long and inviting and faces the gleaming, exposed kitchen which opens onto chef's' tables and a chefs' counter. It's all very interactive.
The service is superb. Our server (Suzanne) suggested a wine, explained the menu and each of the dishes we asked about and discussed the specials with us. And the meal was beautifully paced.
From the minute you pass through the door you will see that the entire staff is friendly, helpful and very well trained.
But of course you want to know about the food, right?
Well, though it is Italian, Osteria is not a red sauce place. So if you're looking for veal or chicken parm, fuhhhgettaboutit. You won't find any of that here, hon.
What you will find is Italian reinterpreted. And the menu in Morrestown follows the Philadelphia menu almost to the last detail.
You still want veal? Think veal breast braised in milk with celery root and celery root salad ($29). In the mood for fish? Think monkfish ossobuco with artichokes and saffron potato puree ($25). Something simpler? How about chicken "all a griglia" with roasted potato and puntarella ($24).
Yes, you can have pasta. We chose the fettucine with porcini trifolati ($18). And there are plenty of pizze traditzionali on the menu too. We opted for the original margherita with tomato, basil and mozzarella ($17). The light but still distinctive fettucine sauce was delicious and the mushrooms were wonderful but we did think the fettucine itself could have been a bit more al dente. When we commented on this, we were offered a whole new plate, cooked exactly to our specifications. But we declined. We weren't that put out over a pasta that we thought was possibly overcooked. The pizza boasted a miraculous crust -- actually translucent. And the sauce was great, as was the fresh mozzarella. But how do you stop mozzarella from sliding off the pizza? Always a challenge, we suppose.
Now, about those salads: Bravo! The tricolor salad with bagna caudal dressing and anchovies was spectacular ($12). We loved it so much we even ate the marvelously fresh anchovies which were not the least bit salty, gooey, stringy or slimy. Rather, they were to dive for! We also enjoyed the porchetta tonnata with arugula, celery and parmigiano ($14). Crisp and delicious. And both salads were ample. Plus, we selected a perfect white wine that was only $7 a glass.
So yes -- overall we were impressed.
This is a cut above.
Total tariff (excluding tip) $75.
Welcome, Osteria!
Below, our dishes exactly as served:

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