Chef Marc Vetri, the 2005 recipient of the James Beard Award for ‘Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic’ with his eponymous restaurant Vetri in Philadelphia, followed his initial success by partnering with Jeff Benjamin and Jeff Michaud to open Osteria). Recognition for that venture came quickly too: a 2008 nomination for the James Beard Award for ‘Best New Restaurant,’ followed by a 2010 James Beard Award for Best Chef Mid-Atlantic for Executive chef Jeff Michaud.
On the menu you’ll find everything from a bountiful antipasti with beets and Brussels sprouts, to a phenomenal stewed rabbit ‘Casalinga’ with pancetta-studded polenta. But really, it’s ‘Le Pizze’ that stand out. In 2009, Alan Richman even ranked Osteria at #22 on his roundup of America’s 25 Best Pizzas for GQ Magazine. The section is distinguished by its complex creations and unique pairing of ingredients. All pizzas were served piping hot with crisp bottoms, charcoaled edges and aptly seasoned crusts that were exceptional whether topped with tomato sauce or octopus.
Its vivid array of flavors made the ‘Trentino’ (top, $19) an instant favorite. The combination of Gorgonzola dolce and mozzarella provided a pungent, cheesy base for sweet grilled figs and slices of salty speck.
Pannocchia: Corn, Charred Scallions, Bufala Mozzarella and Black Truffle.
Black truffles and sweet corn — not a combination you often find on pizza. But together they are the stars of the ‘Pannocchia’ ($22), each kernel offering a burst of juicy freshness against the earthy truffles and melted bufala mozzarella.
Pizza Alla Napoletana: Burrata, Pistachio and Oregano.
Creamy burrata takes center stage in Osteria’s ‘Pizza alla Napoletana’ ($19). The crust is thicker than the others, presumably to support the weight of the abundant spread of creamy cheese. And the crunchy pistachios, though a little unevenly scattered, offered the right textural contrast.
It may only be #22 in America on Richman’s list, but Osteria is arguably one of the top five pizzerias in Philadelphia right now. With the debut of Stephen Starr’s Stella, it looks like Taconelli’s and Pietro’s have found some competition.