NICE SLICE: A pizza that’s worlds better for a few dollars more.
Marc Vetri can slow roast baby goats to succulence. He can knit pastas intricately as a Missoni seamstress and craft lose-yourself ragus. So it may be surprising to hear our de facto Italian authority say the hardest thing to cook is pizza.
“With pizza, it’s like you’re naked,” Vetri says. “If one thing is not right, the whole thing is ruined. There’s nothing to hide behind.”
So you might call Pizzeria Vetri, a white-tiled pizza temple behind the Barnes, a strip club of sorts. Sure, you can get a salad like the bittersweet arugula studded with olives, roasted potatoes and cubed Parm or the full-throated green bean-and-chanterelle wreathed in petals of prosciutto cotto, but the pies — collaborative efforts between Vetri and proteges Jeff Michaud and Brad Spence — are what you’re coming for.
Or calling for. Set at the end of the marble pizza counter, towers of folded brown take-out boxes shrunk as my visits progressed. Scarf a slice, and it’s evident why: For a buck or two more than Fairmount’s other options, you get a pizza that’s worlds better.
They all begin with a dough that eschews oil, per Neapolitan doctrine, and cooks up with a crisp crust and soft but structured center. Most follow with an aurora of the bright, tangy tomato sauce, then a collection of toppings, like house-made sausage, mozzarella, roasted fennel and fennel fronds. That pie, the Salsiccia, was great, but I liked the straightforward Margherita even better.
The Rotolo has gotten plenty of attention, but I found it dry and one-note, with do-nothing mortadella, ricotta and pistachio pesto mummified in dough. I expected something like stromboli. Instead, I got something with all the crispy, chewy, saucy and gooey dynamics of a cracker. So I was extra thankful for the calzone, a golden-brown blimp carrying tomato-mozzarella magma and prosciutto cotto. Crispy, chewy, saucy and gooey.
It’s a tribute to the versatility of pizza how many different things can be made with the dough, like airy, citrus-sugar-dusted donuts served in a paper sack. I depleted the sweet bag from my seat at the counter facing a wood-fired Renato oven, a brand favored by pie temples like Chris Bianco’s Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix.
“It’s the Lamborghini of ovens,” Vetri says. And this is the Lamborghini of pizzerias.
PIZZERIA VETRI | 1939 Callowhill St., 215-600-2629, pizzeriavetri.com. Hours: Daily from 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Salads $8-$12; pizza $3.50-$18; dessert $2.50-$10.
Hand-crafted gift ideas from our favorite local food personalities
There are plenty of people with Martha Stewart-like (or Sandra Lee-like) abilities to deck the...
Taqueria Feliz brings Mexican to the masses in Manayunk
The hostess frowned, but remained polite. In the snug glass vestibule separating Main Street and...
Thanksgiving wines that won't break the bank
According to the 2012-13 retail year-in-review report from the PLCB, the people of Pennsylvania are...