Musings

#PhillyEats: Vetri Cucina

Chronicles of a Girl Experiencing Philly Phine Dining

Article and Photos by Breanne Mastromarino


Antipasti

Once upon a thyme…there lived a girl who was patiently waiting to find out the surprise destination of her Valentine’s Day dinner. Her boyfriend mentioned in December that he had made a reservation and they both agreed that disclose the name of the mystery restaurant on Valentine’s Day. As it became closer to Valentine’s Day, her boyfriend began to send her photos of the food to maintain the suspense. The girl was so intrigued by the appealing pictures and could hardly wait to find out where this seemingly remarkable dinner would take place. Okay, enough of the fairy tale.

*Drumroll please* … After nearly two months of waiting, the restaurant’s identity was revealed: Vetri Cucina. I had heard of this restaurant before but could not remember when or where. But, it was happening!  I immediately searched the restaurant on the internet–skimming Yelp reviews of customers’ opinions and browsing Instagram photographs to catch a glimpse the food itself. Glancing at the menu for just a moment, I began to realize how much I wanted to sustain the suspense. (Typically when I know of a restaurant that I am going to in advance, I read the menu online and view pictures of the food to decide what to order due to my chronic indecisiveness. Little did I know that Vetri Cucina would temporarily cure my indecisiveness by choosing for me what I would eat based on my preferences! )

However, in regard to Vetri Cucina, I did not wish to set any expectations. I realized that would rather embrace the experience at Vetri Cucina for what it was in the present time, attempting to disregard any preconceived standards that I typically set for restaurants. I decided that I would allow the night go as it would.

Segundo

I entered the restaurant, wondering if the rumors of complementary champagne and goody bags that I had read about on the Internet were true. I was so impressed by how polite the hosts were upon our entrance! One host offered to take our coats and we followed another host to our table. I immediately took notice of the interior environment that reminded me of a simple, yet elegant home as well as the fact that my boyfriend and I were by far the youngest people in the restaurant.

Our waitress arrived at the table and told us that we would receive complimentary champagne (yes – that rumor was true!) and asked to check our ID’s. I voiced my classic “I’m not twenty-one, so nothing for me” line. The waitress asked if I would like anything else to drink besides water, to which I declined.  My boyfriend, who is of legal age, received a glass of champagne. Moments later, our waitress returned to the table to explain that there is an “obscure Philadelphia law” in which someone of legal drinking age under the age of twenty-five cannot drink alcohol at the same table as someone who is under twenty-one. And she took the glass of champagne away. I was disappointed for a brief moment until she offered us…wait for it…complimentary mocktails! By the end of the night, we had ordered three rounds of them which yielded a total of six different complimentary drinks.

Upon receiving the menu, our waitress asked if there were any dishes we definitely wanted to try or did not want to try. Based on our preferences, we would be served a combination of various courses throughout our time dining at the restaurant, which we estimated would be approximately three hours.

And in those three hours, I ate some of the most outstanding dishes I have ever tasted in my entire life. The foods we were served seemed to follow our preferences impeccably. Of course, we documented each course, taking photos of every food we ate and writing down the elegant-sounding names of each dish.

Since the intent of this article is not to review the food quality itself, I am not going to mention the details of each dish because there are too many to craft into words. However, there were a few bites that deserve honorable mention:

  • Swiss Chard Gnocchi with Ricotta Salata and Brown Butter – both texture-wise and taste-wise, this was HEAVENLY. I did not realize that a green food could have so much flavor and such a melt-in-your mouth effect. This was definitely my favorite food of the evening!
  • Taglioini with King Crab and Caviar- This was the first time that I can recall tasting actual black caviar. It had such a unique flavor- that reminded me of a “fishy” taste – a taste that has always appealed to me. I learned that caviar is NOT the orange stuff on top of sushi. It is extremely difficult for me to describe in words how this tasted. But if it helps, even after I ate the pasta and crab, I resorted to scooping out every last pearl of caviar with bread.
  • Local Capretto with House-Milled Polenta – My boyfriend was served this dish and I tried one bite. (I did not learn until this night that capretto is goat meat). My immediate reaction was, “I feel like I’m eating a petting zoo!” The goat was so authentic–actually a little too authentic for me. Nevertheless, I’m so glad I had the opportunity to try this dish since I had never seen it on a menu before, and may never again in the future! It was still a great YOLO moment regardless.

Dulce

To conclude the most exquisite dining experience I have ever had, I was thrilled to find out that the goody bag rumors were also true. We were handed not one, but TWO “goody bags”, each containing a large copy of the menu, some handouts, and complimentary almond cookies. Clearly even Vetri Cucina itself desired for this to be an unforgettable night.

I was so stunned that I had experienced such a unique meal that I realized I could not put my experience into words. I tried to use words such as outstanding, incredible, mind-blowing, but these wouldn’t cut it. I realized that friends would ask me what I ate at Vetri Cucina. The real question was, what didn’t I eat?

I’m still in awe as I reflect on my experience at Vetri Cucina. One of my favorite aspects of the three-hour dinner was that it emphasized so variety, something I highly regard in my food consumption. I thrive on dishes that combine as many different and unique tastes as possible and I have never encountered a restaurant who presented this as well as Vetri Cucina did. I have come to realize that the essence of dining is not only centered around the food, but also the entire experience itself : the ambiance, the timing, the conversation, the service, the emotions, and the memories. This meal far exceeded any Philadelphia Restaurant Week experience of mine and I did not believe that a meal with so much variety in flavors like this one was possible. I would highly, highly recommend Vetri Cucina for anyone who is adventurous in their culinary choices, loves variety in flavors, and is celebrating a special occasion. On the other hand, I would not recommend this restaurant for picky eaters or young children. My account only gives a narrow, subjective view on just one person’s encounter of one of the best restaurants in the city. I do agree with the phrase, “Seeing is believing” , but in this case, tasting is believing.

I would like to thank my boyfriend for this generous Valentine’s Day treat, my parents for raising me to become such an adventurous eater with a fondness of fine dining, my body for having such a large appetite, and most importantly, food, for always being there for the moments I will do anything to savor.