Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Slobblog: Osteria - Where No Slobfest Has Gone Before

Of all the Slobfests we've talked about many topics. From current events, pop culture, personal, or just downright vulgar no topic has been off limits, and there probably never will be. However, it is with great certainty that at Marc Vetri's #2 establishment Osteria, one topic was brought up that never has been before: Star Trek. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine or "DS9" to the fans. While no Slob in attendance was a Trekkie, the topic was brought up with good reason. One of the hosts at Osteria looked just like Odo.

Your table is ready.
Now, while no Slob was a Trekkie one was able to specifically name a Star Trek character from a specific series of Star Trek. Even asking, "Does anyone watch Star Trek: Deep Space Nine?"

But regardless, most of us knew who he was referencing, and through the use of the iPhone we were able to bring up the image of Odo and nod approvingly of his doppelganger.

For all I said during the last Slobblog regarding the love for Starr and ignoring Vetri, I guess we can all forget about that. For the second time in a row the Slobs entered a Vetri establishment. This was a Slob's inaugural pick, so whether he was inspired by the last pick or just wanted to go big, as he mentioned in his email to announce his selection, "it's a run on Vetri!" And true to the accolades that follow Marc Vetri and his restaurants, this one did not disappoint.

Osteria is in the Fairmount section of Philadelphia in a large building right on Broad St. As you enter the restaurant there is a small bar area in the back where some Slobs were already throwing back some cocktails and brews while munching on complementary pizza provided by the bartenders. As far as I know there were no favors, sexual or otherwise, done to earn these pizzas, but hey, if you want to make a good impression for Slobfest, giving away some free pizzas is a good start.

Nothing goes together like Osteria and pop culture.
By the time we were ready to be seated we had already eaten two pizzas that were delicious, so our appetites were whet and we were looking forward to some quality Northern Italian grub.

As we sat down to breakdown the extensive menu, it really became a matter of quantity. What combination of food could best satiate our needs?

The menu is enticing. Put together by Vetri and 2010 James Beard Best Chef Mid-Atlantic Jeff Michaud it doesn't make for any good choices, but it is versatile enough to make your meal a mix of casual or fancy.

Drink menus come on an iPad that allows you to look through all of the beer and wine selections. Fancy enough, but extremely confusing to the less technically inclined or just stupid people.

Each wine or beer has a description that drops down, but if you're not in the mood for bottled beer or a whole bottle of wine, choices are limited. There were only a couple of wines you could order by the glass, as well as most of the beer being bottled with only a couple taps available.

We decided to lead off with 3 pizzas: parma, pulpo, and lombarda. Over which we discussed the recent zombie outbreak as well as a Canadian man that brutally killed a man and posted the video on the Internet to apply his theories for falling off the grid and avoiding capture. So you know, normal appetizer talk.

The pizzas come out with a thin crust cooked and crispy from the brick ovens. Of the pizzas, the lombarda was my favorite. The sausage and soft cooked egg on the pizza was a unique experience that melded the flavors of the pizza perfectly. The parma also had rave reviews by Slobs for the fresh cut prosciutto and greens. The pulpo was good and the red pepper flakes gave it some kick, but the smoked octopus was a little overpowering for the pizza itself.

That being said, the food was devoured in no time and we were ready for some more.

What you don't realize about Osteria until you go to the bathroom, is that this place is big. When it gets filled up, I'm sure it's all hands on deck, but on a slightly less filled night, over staffing is probably a typical occurrence.

Polpo in the foreground; Parma in the background.
The kitchen is open and exposed to diners that are lucky enough to sit nearby. There is constant activity, but there are a lot of wait staff sort of just hanging around.

Our lucky server, Mario, came back to field our entree requests and refill some drinks. One of the most important questions we Slobs ask at Italian establishments is whether or not the limoncello is homemade. Mario responded with an assertive yes, much to the approval of all the Slobs.

Entrees were a tough call. As per a typical Italian menu, there was a Primi and Secondi section of the menu. Both had very interesting choices that divided the attention of the Slobs. Some were feeling the pizza a bit or perhaps just wanted some of the famous pasta at Osteria. Others were concerned with portion size, wanting to make sure they left Osteria properly slobbed out.

Not quite zombie status, but these livers were fantastic.
Neither thought was right or wrong as there were varying choices and outcomes as a result of our ordering. Two slobs went with the pig special. Devouring carved up pig is a Slobfest tradition at this point, and the special provided some roasted pig meat and ribs. The other slobs went with pasta: lasagna, rigaotini, and ravioli. The portions across the board were small, but rather filling. Along with the pasta special we shared at the table, most slobs were full, but not overly stuffed.

I had ordered the chicken liver rigatoni, and I can say it was a larger portion than some of the other Slobs, but it was delicious and very rich. I ended up sharing with any slob that would take some of the dense chicken liver and sauce that perfectly paired with the soft rigatoni. No fresh Parmesan or pepper was needed for this dish.

Over dinner we started one of my favorite discussions to have, favorite Metallica album and furthermore, how underrated the second half of the Black album is. While initially criticized for it's musical departure from Metallica's previous master opus and release "...And Justice for All," Black album caught the flack from die hard fans for being too comercial. The release of one of the most popular songs of all-time "Enter Sandman" probably didn't help refute this. But lost in all the "what the fuck 'Tallica" that was going on, was a truly great album. Still not "Ride the Lightning" or "Puppets" level, but still something that 99% of the bands that existed on this planet couldn't do.

Among the first 8 songs, 5 became singles. So some of the most underrated songs in Metallica's catalog come after that with My Friend of Misery being my personal favorite of the latter songs. Since we were all Metallica fans in some capacity, it was a very positive and in-depth conversation which was enjoyable.

After entrees we began thinking about that limoncello. We had managed to convince ourselves we could get this for free as is the tradition in many Italian establishments. Especially since Osteria does not have limoncello on their after dinner menu. The reason? They can't "sell" it. I found after making my own limoncello that the standard recipe calls for grain alcohol which happens to be illegal in PA. Damn Quakers.

So, you can't sell something that's illegal, so our odd fascination for the lemon drink led to a bit of a discovery. When Mario returned, two of our crack sales guys at the table started to do business. The lead off attempt was some combination of shrugging off giving us free limoncello like it was no big deal, then peer pressure, then giving a backhanded compliment about Mario's beard, finally crashing to a finish by addressing him as bro. Much to our surprise, no free limoncello.

The second attempt was more one-upping our simple server, even to go as far as name dropping Marc Vetri and presuming what he would want Mario to do. A shot for the jugular for sure, but Mario wasn't biting. That's why we have an extra $40 on our tab.

As for desserts, the menu guessed it, extensive. There were many interesting desserts. I got the budino if only to compare it to the carmel budino at Barbuzzo, which is my favorite dessert on this planet. Barbuzzo still reigns supreme, but this was good. Other Slobs went on to enjoy their individual desserts and various caffeinated beverages.

We all saw why Osteria gets the pub. It's good Italian food and one of the better menus we've come across. Everything was expertly done, and the large size of the restaurant muted all of our zombie eating, metal talking, crude joke making selves. Always a plus. I'm sure we'd all go back, and we probably will. Once we get a good in for free limoncello.

Nice beard, bro!

-Slobs out.

640 N. Broad
Philadelphia, PA

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