I hate people who are not serious about their meals. -- Oscar Wilde

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Osteria Philly

Om Nomz Hero note to self: Everyone should eat more chicken livers

I am a notorious Philly/6th Borough hater and Yankee fan; here were the only good things that came out of Philly:

1.       Sandwiches/hoagies
2.       Rocky
3.       It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
4.       The Constitution

However, with all kidding aside, I started going to Philly a bit more and realized that it was not as bad as I made it out to be and that it has a growing food scene that rivals some of the places in New York. While I still will continue to hate the Philadelphia Phillies as much as I hate the Red Soxs, I am now coming around to the Philadelphia dining scene especially with my visit to Osteria.
Osteria is co-owned by Mark Vetri, one of the biggest chefs in Philadelphia and most knowledgeable American chefs on Italian cuisine. The restaurant under the helm of the very capable hands of Jeff Michaud. Osteria is considered one of Philly’s top restaurant and easily one of the best meals I had in a while. 

Salumi slicer is always a good thing
Osteria is located in North Philly in the non-Killadelphia part of town. The restaurant is spacious and if you can, request a seat on the side terrace that if is a beautiful greenhouse like space that is perfect view of the church next door and soaks up all natural light. Service was great and friendly though the host did that annoying thing where even though I said reservation for one, and confirmed on the phone a day or two before did the, “Oh, just you?” Yes. Just me, after doing some quick math and counting with my fingers, I can affirmatively say, yes I am dining alone\sarcasm.
Bread and olive oil

Cursed with only one stomach, I wanted to eat everything on the menu but I decided to go a bit easy which was hard because the semolina bread, grissini, sea salted foccacia in their bread basket made it hard to resist. I started off light with the porchetta tonnato. This is a variation of the classic vitello tonnato but instead of veal, they use porchetta, which they make with the belly and cure it. It is topped with Italian tuna, not something that is considered to be in the same class as Bumblebee, arugula, celery and parmigiano. To the uninitiated that have not had a vitello tonnato, the combination of pork and tuna sounds like a car crash in your head but once you taste it, it makes sense. The porchetta is slightly rich and nicely salted and the briny fishiness of the tuna works well together. The addition of the bitterness of greens rounds everything out. More Food After the Jump!

Osteria allows you to get a half portion of the pastas, which was good for me. When the pastas came out, I was temporary alarmed, that I was misheard and that they gave me full portions instead, something that I would have been able to do. However, I was later reassured that what I received was half portions and I was impressed, because the half portions here would easily be the size of a regular entree in New York, and cost twice as much. Philly does have its perks. 

Chicken Liver Rigatoni
The chicken liver rigatoni is one of my favorite pasta dishes and currently in the number one spot. This dish to me resulted in a wow moment and revelation of how good chicken liver can taste. I already love eating chicken livers; this just gave me a reason to love eating it more. The gaminess and iron flavors of the livers are basically non-existent and a subtle poultry flavor to it and had an unbelievable creaminess to the dish. The chicken livers were not grainy at all. The addition of the cipollino onions added a light sweetness and grating of parmesan fused the dish together. The fresh made rigatoni had a texture and you could taste the wheat and all the aspects of the pasta. This dish was rustic yet elegant and packed a lot of flavor. 

The other pasta dish I had was the fusili with monkfish, tomatoes capers and peperoncini. Monkfish is an ugly fish and can be tough when cooked and just is an off putting fish. However, in the hands of a capable chef, it can be tender and delicious in this case it was. The pasta and monkfish were swimming in a broth like sauce of tomatoes and the monkfish tasted great. The peperoncini was just enough heat for the slightest tingle and accent the flavors of the dish. I cannot get over the taste of the pasta meaning that the pasta itself gets melded and lost in so many dishes yet here at Osteria, the pasta is not a support actor, it is playing the main role whereas the sauce and other components there to accentuate the pasta. Both pastas are beautifully made and both got the scarpetta treatment of soaking up the excess sauce with the bread. 
The pizzas here are not to be missed and they do both Roma and Neapolitan style pies. I was told that I was able to get the a pizza with either the crispier Roma style or the Neapolitan style crust so I went with the Lombarda that had bitto cheese, mozzarella, tomatoes and cotechino sausage and the selling point for me, a baked egg. Eggs on top of pizzas are always a good thing. 

The first thing I noticed about the pie when it came out was that the egg was still runny: good sign. The second thing I noticed was the lack of char on the pie. I am coming to suspect that pizza char is a thing of New York pizzas however, despite the lack of char, the pizza was respectable. The crust was uniformly puffed and light and the runny egg and sausage in just a universally great combination. If they ever did a brunch service, this pizza would be a killer. The only criticism that I have of the pie is that the dough could have been better if they dough had more time to rise to develop flavors and chewiness. 

Despite my marathon-like carbo-loading I had room for dessert and I heard that the gelatos and sorbets were great here but I had to try the polenta budino. A budino is a fancy way of saying pudding, but budino sounds a lot more attractive. The polenta budino is served in a coffee cup, with a gianduja (read nutella tasting chocolate) mousse and candied hazelnuts.  The polenta budino was smooth, creamy and did not have any grittiness at all. This budino tasted better than some regular polenta preparations I had. The addition of the hazelnuts was great textually and this dessert was a nice finish to a great meal. 

The food at Osteria was just fantastic and the experience was solid. Considering that this was my first taste of what Philly has to offer, I have to find more reasons to come down to Philly and try out some other places, especially Vetri. Plus, street parking here easily better than New York, apparently if there is a open piece of street and not a driveway, it’s all good!

640 North Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19130

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