Prominent Philly chef to tackle pizza

Chef Marc Vetri announced he signed the lease for his Pizzeria Vetri.

With a growing presence of artisan pizza styles and gourmet creations in the city, one man has recently announced his craving for a piece of the pie: Marc Vetri.

On Feb. 5, Philly’s prominent chef tweeted a photo of the freshly signed lease for his new restaurant, Pizzeria Vetri.

Scheduled to open this summer at 20th and Callowhill streets, Pizzeria Vetri will be Marc Vetri’s fifth eatery in the city, joining Alla Spina, Amis, Osteria, and his original establishment, Vetri.

Serving authentic Italian cuisine as well as local brews, Vetri’s successful empire has led to national recognition, such as the prestigious James Beard Award for “Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic.”

His right-hand man since 2000, business partner Jeff Benjamin, revealed why Vetri has chosen to add another restaurant to his stable.

“I can’t foresee a time when people won’t be eating pizza,” Benjamin said. “Pizza is very popular, and we’ve been pretty successful with it at Osteria. One thing we’ve learned in business is that you home in on what you know and you do it right rather than try to do something new every time.”

His closest restaurant to Main Campus, Osteria, located on 640 N. Broad St., offers an assortment of oak-burning stone oven pizzas.

Osteria’s Parma, a pie of mozzarella, fontina, arugula and prosciutto di parma, was voted best pizza of 2012 by Philadelphia magazine.

Additionally, Food & Wine magazine ranked Osteria as one of the 50 best pizza spots in the country.

Even though Vetri’s new place will be emphasizing pizza, Benjamin assures that Osteria won’t become the redheaded stepchild.

“The recipes will be very similar,” Benjamin said.

“We’ll add some new flavors, but we’ll always have the staples like margharita. The only difference is you won’t be able to carry these pies out,” Benjamin added.

Founder of Pizza Brain, the world’s first pizza museum, Brian Dwyer remembers when Philadelphians digested a steady diet of pizza chains and corner parlors.

“I was a newly minted Temple dropout in the fall of 2004,” Dwyer said.

“I didn’t know about this city’s pizza so I was sitting on the curb of South Street eating a slice of Lorenzo’s at 2 a.m. But that big, greasy slice is a perfect example of how the Philly pizza landscape used to look: not awesome, but it was there for you in a pinch when you needed it,” Dwyer said.

As the Guinness World Record Holder for the Largest Collection of Pizza Related Items, Dwyer claims Pizzeria Vetri will add to the Italian pie revolution striking the city.

“By and large, Philly is not known as a pizza destination,” Dwyer said. “But I think that’s changing more and more all the time, especially with the continuation of heavy hitters like Vetri expanding their pizza influence around town.”

Pizzeria Vetri will be located on the first floor of the Granary, a luxury apartment building being constructed on the 1900 block of Callowhill Street.

“The opening of the Barnes and the opening of the Granary that we’re going into has a kind of new, built-in populace,” Benjamin said.

“[Vetri] lives just four blocks north of where we’re going to be opening, and he loves the neighborhood. It is really family friendly, and with lots of foot traffic on weekends, we think it’s going to be a pretty hot area,” Benjamin said.

Pizzeria Vetri will sit diagonal to the 20th Street entrance of the Barnes Foundation on the Parkway and behind the Central Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Director of Communications for the Central Branch Alix Gerz anticipates renewed interest in the area.

“I’m super excited for the opening of Vetri’s new restaurant,” said Gerz, a 2007 Temple graduate.

“Not only will there be a new place to grab lunch or dinner, but the increased traffic in Parkway central will hopefully attract more people to our exhibits. As an eater and a librarian, this is very good news,” Gerz said.

As for students seeking employment at Vetri’s new restaurant, Benjamin welcomes applications albeit with a caveat.

“We’re always looking to hire,” Benjamin said.

“College students usually have a great work ethic, but we don’t do any real part-time labor, so you have to be committed to working full time and being a full-time student,” Benjamin warned.

While a glance at Vetri’s track record will indicate Pizzeria Vetri’s chances for success, one must wonder if the city will soon move cheese steaks to the Philly food extinction list.

John Corrigan can be reached at 

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