Monday, September 14, 2009

Philly's Best- Osteria

Are you in the mood for some thin crust brick oven pizza, but dinner without the kids? Would you like to wow some friends with an antipasti platter served on rustic wooden boards as you all drink some mid to high range priced wine while dressed casual, and not worry about being too loud? If you answered no to the first answer then you might want to retry your google search, but if you answered yes; then Osteria is for you. If you answered no to the second question, then you might want stay home; order in delivery; make your own party, but you will not have as much fun!

A group of my friends did decide to venture away from their New Jersey digs for a city get away. Being able to take off like this for a few days is just one of the lures of living in the north east for my family moving from Texas. We live only an hour in most directions from other states of exploration. Philadelphia, being one, is full of great restaurants, museums, shopping and sightseeing. With a click of my fingers, and the help of online bargaining sites I found hotel rooms for each couple just a little over fifty dollars, and in walking distance of the downtown’s many offerings.

Dinner in Philly is always challenging, why… because there are so many great places to eat. We personally have eaten at many of the top liners such as Morimoto, Le Bec Fin and Striped Bass (which was directly across the street from Fin, but no longer exists to our great sadness). We feel the city has always attracted great establishments. We are excited to see rising chefs open not only one restaurant, but two as Marc Vetri has done in the past few years. This trend in building culinary empires seems like it always begins with a higher end establishment, and then on to a casual menu and setting (but there usually does remain a high end price tag attached).

Do not get me wrong…my favorite pie experience in the world is a brick oven slice, and I would drive the distance, paying that extra buck or two, or four if it makes my taste buds swoon like a Frank Sinatra song. Crust that snaps like a cracker with lovely burnt edges and just a whisper of unique ingredients like local corn, charred scallions, bufala mozzarella and black truffle listed as pannocchia on the menu under Le Pizze.

Minus the crooner, Osteria is quite the foodie experience; of course, you must stay away from reading oodles of mixed reviews (not always a good idea)before you at least give the place a try. I believe that walking blindly into the door of any place is always worth a shot, and a second visit gives you a chance to really get a good feel for the quality of service and menu flavors. Following my own advice I entered the Broad street renovated apartment building ground floor restaurant, and was hit by the smell of brick oven heavenly'ness. The rest of the group commented on this immediately, so it is not just my own imagination.

As we traveled past the hostess area the open air kitchen (housing the brick oven up front) and bar seating are to your right; then guided past tables on the left we entered the atrium style room patio area where a larger table awaited our arrival. We all must have been drugged by the intoxicating smells coming from each table we passed. One by one we grew exceedingly hungry to try everything on the tables in our path. Like the large rustic wooden board covered by fresh marinated vegetable antipasto (12 pp), wooden bowls filled with fresh house made bread, bowls of pasta, and so many others. Our very attentive waitress gave us the specials, and then answered all of our questions.

The group decided after eating all the bread with truffle butter we should share Antipasti and a Primi dish- the above mentioned pizza, beet and goat cheese plin with tarragon, and the lamb "battuto" with grilled apricots and pecorino salad. From their Secondi side of the menu, we ordered- rabbit "casalinga" with pancetta, sage, brown butter and soft polenta, wood grilled grouper with corn brodo, chanterelle mushrooms and charred baby leeks, chicken "alla griglia" with radicchio, olive salad and fennel agro dolce, and one of the specials mentioned: slow roasted baby suckling pig with brick oven roasted potatoes (perfectly cooked in olive oil I must say!), and topped off with a pork rind.

After ordering we decided on a bottle of wine to go with all the ingredients gracing the table- 2007, Tenuta ArgenteiraareitengrA, Bolgheri, Poggio Al Ginepri. This Tuscan wine worked perfectly with each dish.

Everything was wonderful. No, it was fantastic. Simply, we were stuffed. The entire table was happy with the whole experience, so much that I kissed the cook! I do not think that when Chef Jeff Michaud came over to our table; offering out his hand in introduction, and to ask us how we felt about the food; that he expected me to pull him in so I could plant one on his cheek. Only since our dining experience at Elements in Princeton a while back have I felt everything was as perfect in detail as a restaurant should be.

Osteria's partners Marc Vetri and Jeff Benjamin were not in sight, but they along with Jeff have created a fun and tasty trip to northern Italy. That brick oven smell they possess should be bottled as a room spray! Well, I think we will just have to come back. Do not take my word, or any one else's for that fact...go try it for yourself!


Cuisines: Italian & Seasonal Menus

Address: 640 N Broad St, Philadelphia, PA 19130
Phone: (215) 763-0920
Fax: (215) 763-0926

Did I mention the Ricotta Cheesecake was divine?