This city continues to surprise me. Just when I think its gems have been exhausted and it’s time to move on, I experience something so amazing that I can’t tear myself away.
Friday we were among the lucky eighteen (thirty-six, all said) that attended the Perrier Enoteca at Vetri Restaurant. Long the subject of my curiosity and desire, we were finally crossing the threshold of that pretty townhouse on Spruce between thirteenth and broad. We were greeted warmly– with bubbly and a row of the owner, Marc Vetri’s, books set against the wall for perusal. It was like walking into my version heaven. The other diners arrived, and we all crowded in before it was time to make our way to the upstairs space for a “meet and greet” with the chefs. That was a complete surprise to me, and I was ecstatic.
We entered a beautiful demo kitchen and were met by Chefs Vetri and Perrier, poured glasses of bubbly and handed oysters topped with lemon gelato (I told, you heaven.). Chef Perrier–a quintessential French chef with such passion and precision (pictured in the first of the images above)– announced the asparagus soup, and small ramekins of each were distributed. Chef Vetri– a kind, down-to-earth guy and one hell of a chef–gave us an overview of how the night came to be and what to expect. It would be a dinner not so different from a family dinner at home. There would be no courses or ordering. Just sipping wine and being served a Thanksgiving-like feast. If, that is, your Thanksgiving includes handmade pasta, Boeuf Bourguignon and no arguing.
We were seated at a long, wooden table in a charming room that can be reserved for special events. We had a list of wines curated for our choosing, and diners were able to purchase a glass or a bottle (or both). The service was the best I’ve ever experienced anywhere. They were so charming, knowledgeable, and made the experience enjoyable for us all. While we waited for the meal to be served, we made introductions to diners across the table and the conversation flowed freely.
Chefs Vetri and Perrier and the waitstaff arrived bearing a smorgasbord of mostly French and a few Italian dishes.For the French components, there was a salad covered in fresh seafood and fennel and the famous Le Bec Fin crab cakes. There was asparagus smothered Béarnaise and the most delicious mashed potatoes you can dream up. And let’s not forget the Boeuf Bourguignon. The Italian beauties included a bowl overflowing with polenta and a rigatoni bolognese that I truthfully couldn’t spot eating. I mean it…I was the last of the eighteen people to toss in the towel and allow my plate to be cleared (Sorry!).
None of us could stop raving about one dish or another. Hell, none of us could stop going on about any of them! Chef Vetri stopped in and chatted with us for a bit and admitted the enjoyment he got out of these events: the opportunity to feed people in a way that was more true to home-style cooking and, of course, to collaborate with a longtime culinary icon and friend. Later, we would have a minute to give our regards to Chef Perrier and admit a bit of nostalgia as Le Bec Fin was our first formal dining experience.
The meal winded down as we finished the meal with a fruit soup– a relief from the July heat and the hour I spent gorging myself with my favorite dishes. Wine bottles and decanters were passed around by those too full to continue and we gladly partook. We may have had even too much fun if that’s possible.
With another seating at 8:30, we left at right around 8. It was a big party–rich food and wine and great people– and honestly one of the best dining experiences I’ve ever had.
The Enoteca at Vetri is held very rarely, but when it is being held, it shouldn’t be missed. It’s $75 per person for the family style dinner. Sometimes there’s a guest chef, sometimes they’re trying out a new menu. These events are announced the morning of and need to be booked ASAP. As a reference, I sort of serendipitously spotted the notice on Twitter and called three minutes later. They were completely booked in twenty minutes. Follow here.
1312 Spruce Street, Philadelphia