Saturday, September 7, 2013

Pizzeria Vetri Review

This is for a series of posts for the Vetri family of restaurants including: Pizzeria Vetri [1], Pizzeria Vetri [2], Pizzeria Vetri [3], Alla Spina, Amis, Vetri Ristorante [1], and Vetri Ristorante [2].   
Moving to a new apartment for the sake of a new restaurant seems a bit absurd. But having Pizzeria Vetri next door certainly helped solidify my desire to move into the Granary Apartments last week. I consider myself a bit of a 'Vetri-naut,' having dined at all of his restaurants which include Alla Spina, Osteria, Amis, and of course, the venerable Vetri Ristorante. So naturally, I was salivating at the prospect of tasting Pizzeria Vetri's offerings.

So in the weeks leading up to the September 6th opening, I staved off my cravings for Osteria-like pizzas by following the Vetri Family Chefs (sounds like a mob family, no?) on Instagram. Chefs Marc Vetri, Jeffrey Michaud, and Brad Spence littered their feeds with sneak peeks - essentially teasing, tantalizing, and taunting my taste buds. 

Soon enough though, September 6th came and being that I'm able to work from home on Fridays, I considered the stars to be aligned. I ventured over to Pizzeria Vetri for lunch - despite knowing that the GF and I would be enjoying dinner there soon.  

For a relatively small space, the high ceilings and industrial design give the pizzeria a cavernous feel (a la Granary Apartments since they own the retail space) . The thumping hip hop and occasional rock music firmly cements the cool and relaxed vibe. 

Seating is available at the marble counter, providing diners with a direct view of the Chefs at work as well as a view of the gorgeous wood and gas powered Renato pizza oven. Pizzas don't take very long to crisp up in this bad boy (girl?).

All three all-star chefs were on hand for the weekend - making sure things were running smoothly and that the dishes were being executed properly. 

Chef Vetri held court at the pass - drizzling olive oil and putting the final touches on the pizzas before they went out. 

Rotolo ($3.50)
Pizza dough, mortadella, ricotta, pistacchio pesto

But let's get on with the food! For lunch, I started off with the ritolo. One of my favorites, the dough is well seasoned and has a great crisp crust which lends to a chewy interior. The lusciousness of the olive oil coats your tongue with the lightness of the ricotta contrasting nicely with the savory nuggets of the pistachio pesto. 

Check out the innards! The weight of the mortadella was interspersed throughout this pocket of dough to create a hearty bite every time. A must order (provided it's not sold out!).

Calzone ($16)
Ricotta, prosciutto cotto, tomato sauce

I couldn't stop there. I knew I had to order the calzone. The outer crust was littered with salty cheese and the char on the exterior was well executed. The folds of dough were just thin enough so it didn't overpower the innards. Any thinner and the calzone would burst! 

The weight of the prosciutto cotto or 'cooked prosciutto' was balanced by the tang of the light dressing of tomato sauce within. The ricotta was so fresh it seemed to have the texture of fresh mozzarella. I wouldn't let this bad boy sit too long or the thin dough may have the chance to get soggy. I can't imagine anyone letting this sit for too long without being eaten. 

And with that, my first Pizzeria Vetri experience was satisfying, but over. Now, I know what you're thinking. What about the pizza? I saved that experience for dinner with the GF the next day. After hearing that the pizzeria was out of dough after the first dinner service, we knew we had to stop by relatively early on the evening. So we stopped by before 8PM. There was already a decent crowd waiting outside, but we appreciated that the pizzeria has the ability to text when our table was ready! So the GF and I went back into the Granary Apartments and shot some pool until it was time to dig in. 

Pizza al Taglio del Giorno ($6) 

We started off with the rectangular 'pizza of the day, by the slice.' Tonight, it was the roasted red bell peppers and there were only two left! I appreciated that our waitress Pamela put our order in for the pizza even before she took the rest of our order - just to lock it in. I don't know what the Vetri chefs do to their dough, but they certainly do it right. Each bite starts with the initial crispy crust, which lends itself to an enjoyable chew. Seriously - the dough on this was incredible - it felt as though a burst of olive oil came through with each bite. The essence of roasted red peppers was imbued in this pizza, with thin red pepper slices littered throughout. Salty hints of cheese came through to cut through the sweetness of the red peppers. I even found a nugget of roasted corn in one bite - though that might have fallen over during service from our next dish. 

Wood Oven Salad ($12)
Roasted corn, chanterelles, green beans, prosciutto cotto, ricotta salata 

As the GF remarked - this was definitely my type of salad. There was absolutely no lettuce, but the 'green' element and texture to the dish was embodied by the snap of the green beans and sweet roasted corn. The chanterelles provided a nice earthiness to the dish while the prosciutto cotto provided the majority of the weight for the dish. The pressed, salted, and dried ricotta provided a nice salty enhancement to each bite.

Margherita ($14) 
Basil, mozzarella, tomato sauce 

Finally, it's pizza time. Of course, we had to order the margherita. This was nicely executed and certainly one of my favorite iterations in the city. As expected, the crust is perfectly crispy, yet also chewy - a perfect dichotomy of textures. The basil and tomato sauce are bright elements to the dish. Sourced from Di Bruno Brothers, the mozzarella provided a nice weight and creaminess to each bite, with the olive oil bringing it all together. 

Check out that leoparding! 

Melanzana ($14)
Crushed san marzano, eggplant, stracciatella, oregano 

The GF and I have been on a roasted eggplant kick as of late. Roasted eggplant and caprese salad seems to be a pretty standard dinner as of the past few weeks. So we couldn't help but order the melanzana. The umami of roasted eggplant simply can't be beat. This was my first time trying stracciatella cheese, which is made from the thin strands of what's left after mozzarella is stretched. These strands are typically soaked in heavy cream and have a lusciousness that seems perfect for pizza. The cheese had a bright funk that complemented the tartness of the San Marzano and helped to cut through the lusciousness of the aubergine.

At this point in the meal, it was announced that Pizzeria Vetri was out of fried pizza dough, bufala, and ritolo. Eager diners waiting outside had to be turned away as well. Looking at my watch, I realized it was only 8:48PM. And to be sure, it's not for a lack of prep! But to satisfy the our respective sweet tooth, the GF and I had to try one of the other desserts before they were sold out as well.

Cookie Jar ($5)
Pignoli, almond cookies, pistacchio gnocchi, chocolate biscotti 

So we settled on the cookie jar, which featured a quartet of treats, times two. Clockwise starting from the top, we enjoyed the pignoli which were unsurprisingly studded with pine nuts and emanated the essence of creamy almonds. The almond cookies were coated in powdered sugar and were actually our least favorite of the bunch. Each bite of the pistacchio gnocchi had an initial rush of sugar, with the nuttiness of the pistachio coming through on the finish. Last, but not least, the chocolate biscotti was imbued with dark chocolate was a nice way to end the meal.

Overall, service was on point for an opening weekend though not without the occasional misstep (I saw at least two pizzas being delivered to the wrong party during dinner service). Still, the wait staff was friendly and Vetri partner Jeff Benjamin was on hand to ensure that service, as a whole, was up to par. Beer and wine are on tap, though with the latter, carafe pricing may be a bit on the high side. Several cocktails are on offer as well.

Pizzeria Vetri is definitely a bright spot in the Logan Square/Fairmount restaurant scene. It offers a hip atmosphere where adults and kids alike can enjoy well-crafted 'za and other Vetri specialties. It certainly is the most comfortable of Vetri's joints. That's not to say that Alla Spina and Amis don't offer a relaxed atmosphere. But a step above those two restos would be Osteria and rising above the rest in terms of service, setting, and price is the vaunted Vetri Ristorante. In my mind, it's simply a testament to Vetri and his team. It's nice to see the wide range of patrons they are hoping to engage in the hopes of inspiring or perhaps simply providing enjoyment with their cuisine. But really, all I know is this. I'm gonna be eating a lot of pizza until my lease is up. 

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