Saturday, February 25, 2017

Review: Pizzeria Vetri at Urban Outfitters, King of Prussia PA

Trained in Italy, Marc Vetri is a native Philadelphian at the head of a family of Italian restaurants and pizzerias. The list includes Vetri, Osteria, Amis, Alla Spina, Pizzeria Vetri and Lo Spiedo. At Osteria, I had my very first authentic Neapolitan pizza, and that occasion was also the first time I dropped over $100 for pizza, appetizers, and drinks.
Our mix of slices from Pizzeria Vetri
The first Pizzeria Vetri was located behind the fabulous Barnes Museum in Philly; we loved both the Neapolitans pies and the thick square pizza sold by the slice. Like Osteria, it was expensive but still a good value.
Pizzeria Vetri in the King of Prussia Mall

Adjacent to parent company, Urban Outfitters
As Vetri began turning his pizza operation into a chain, he sold all of his restaurants (except Vetri) to Urban Outfitters - an apparel and home goods retailer - in November 2015. The folks at URBN perceive some synergy between retail and restaurants, which led to the opening of a Pizzeria Vetri adjacent to the Urban Outfitters store in the mall at King of Prussia, PA.
Toppings had not been baked

Toppings had not been baked

Trays of pies we didn't try.  Yet.
We stopped by on a mid-afternoon of a winter Saturday, and there were several large trays of rectangular pie. Although the Pizzeria Vetri on Callowhill Street in Philly focuses on Neapolitans (and it seems they no longer offer square slices), this one is strictly Roman style "al taglio" pie sold by the slice.
The Marinara Slice
There is a wide variety of huge but pricey slices. The marinara goes for $4, and some more exotic slices are $8 each. Because these are both thick and jumbo-sized, each slice is the practical equivalent of two slices of conventional triangle slices in terms of volume. Two slices should be filling for most normal appetites.

Rotolo, cut in half, top and bottom
We ordered one pepperoni "rotolo" and four slices - Marinara, Margherita, Cacio e Pepe, and Roasted Mushroom. The pies are essentially fully cooked, but some toppings are not baked in until the re-heat, which can take place at the pizzeria or, in our case, at home. Before heating (5-8 minutes at 400 degrees on a perforated pizza pan), I removed the basil leaves from the Margherita; cooking them diminishes the flavor.
The Margherita
The rotolo seemed to be the kind of pizza novelty that I'd typically avoid, but I'm glad we ordered it. It was simple pizza dough, constructed in a spiral like a cinnamon bun, but with sauce and pepperoni in between the layers. The real expertise here was in getting the proportions correct so that the final product has a good mix of crunchy and chewy texture as well as the right moisture balance. Good stuff.
Marinara slices at Forno Marco Roscioli, Rome
The true magic, though, was in the crust of this Roman style pie. It was thicker and puffier - yet lighter - than the superb Roman style pizza I'd had in Rome. It was astonishingly light for a pie so thick, and it shared a lot in common with the wonderful al taglio slices at Rize in nearby Broomall. One might also compare it to the smaller yet heavier slices of Detroit style pies you can find at places like Norma's Pizza in Lancaster County, PA and at Via 313 in Austin, TX.
Underside of the airy crust
The crust alone was good enough to put this branch of Pizzeria Vetri into the top tier, and it bolsters Vetri's words about the buyout by URBN. Vetri, who remains in charge of the restaurant operations, said "we're not cheapening anything."
Cacio e Pepe
Slice by slice, my favorite might have been the Marinara (much as it was in Rome), because this simple no-cheese pie really lets both that amazing cloudlike crust and the superb red sauce shine. The Margherita slice was likewise excellent, but the dollops of fresh mozzarella took the place of some of that terrific tomato sauce. Like every slice, the Margherita was balanced so that the cheese and sauce did not overwhelm the puffy crust below.
Roasted Mushroom
The Cacio e Pepe had an intriguing blend of cheeses (grana padano, pecorino, mozzarella) but this white pie was probably the least interesting. I think I'd like it switched up Detroit style, with a splash of post-bake tomato sauce on top. The edges of this slice (and others, too) were enhanced by the supply of small containers with coarse salt and olive oil, for dipping. Really a nice touch.
Coarse salt and olive oil for cornicione dipping
The Roasted Mushroom was another white pie, but with a lot more umami due to the generous amount of mushrooms on top, along with some shaved onion. The rotolo and all four slices were uniformly excellent, but I came away with a distinct preference for slices with red sauce. 
Great staff makes for a great customer experience
I had excellent and helpful service from the counter staff, but I found it inconvenient that you need to order pizza at one counter and anything else (drinks, salads, desserts) at another counter across the aisle. Much like the Philly cheesesteak joints that employ the same system, it's designed for the convenience of the restaurant, not the customer. However, that's a small quibble. 
Trays of pies at Vetri
Al Taglio pies at Forno Marco Roscioli, Rome
I never thought I'd get good pizza in a mall. Pizzeria Vetri at Urban Outfitters in King of Prussia Mall is beyond good - it is destination pizza and a welcome break from the still-booming Neo-Neapolitan trend. With tax, I spent about $28 for those four slices and the rotolo, and that's great value.
Pizzeria Vetri Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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