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Jan 6, 2009 03:07 PM

Osteria - Yuck

We had been eagerly looking forward to dinner at Osteria. We finally made it there last evening. We were shocked to find the restaurant practically empty since they had no availability on Open Table. We managed to "wrangle" a reservation by calling the restaurant directly.

We were promply seated and the service throughout the evening was excellent.

The food, however, was a different story. We started with the sauteed artichokes. They were tasty but extremely greasy. I was certain that they had been deep fried but our server said that they were pan fried.

For entrees my sig ordered the special of the evening, roast pig. I had the pizza parma. My sig asked if he could have the saffron potatoes. He was informed that they only had enough for the dish they were supposed to accompany! What's with that?

I let out an inner gasp when the roast pig arrived. It was described as meat from different areas of the pig. It was more like scraps. A teeny tiny portion of meat . Couldn't have been more than 4 ounces of meat. It looked like a bit more because of the two large bones on the plate. Even with the bones it looked tiny. They hammered us $32 for that "special" .

My pizza was supposed to have mozz, fontina and parma ham. The description did not mention the mountain of olive oil that must have been poured on the pizza before serving. There was so much oil that my hands were greasy just from holding it and the plate had a puddle of oil under the pizza.

We both had to go home and take an antacid.

For those who would try to attribute this to our lack of appreciation for truly "authentic" Italian cuisine, we have spent months in Italy and know the food quite well.

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  1. the chef is probably in atlantic city or dubai wheeling and dealing to open 75 more restaurants instead of watching his kitchens. same story all over philadelphia.

    eat at smaller places, where the cooks normally actually care about the food they put out.

    2 Replies
    1. re: silverbullet69

      whoa - that is really an inaccurate statement as it pertains to Jeff Michaud and the rest of the Osteria/Vetri crew. I don't know what went wrong and Chef Michaud may not have been in the kitchen, but marc Vetri and jeff Benjamin had Vetri (an extremely small restaurant) for 9 years before they opened Osteria and have no desire for an empire - leave that to Chef Garces (who despite his growing empire is also feeding the city quite well)

      1. re: Bigley9

        What Bigley said! Half the times I've been to Osteria, Vetri has been there, and Jeff Michaud has been there every time. I can't explain joluvscards experience but 'the chef was probably in Dubai' is definitely not the reason. Vetri is the perfect example of a "smaller place where the cooks normally actually care about the food they put out", and Osteria isn't far behind it in my experience there, except it's not small.

    2. I am on the same page as you, I really think this restaurant isn't good - not just overrated. Oh well. My pizza is always droopy (never crisp) and portions are tiny.

      1 Reply
      1. re: saturninus

        Well, I'm glad someone else had the guts to say what I have been thinking. I was completely underwhelmed with Osteria, both times I have been. A friend, who I trust completely, was also dissatisfied with it. I wouldn't have gone based on that opinion alone, but clients of mine really wanted to go.
        Yes, it's a place to see and be seen, but I really wasn't impressed with it at all. We're all entitied to our opinions and impressions of restaurants we've been to. Osteria will never be a favorite of mine.

      2. the pig special you are referring to is the suckling pick. it is a delicacy and of course they aren't going to give you a ton of meat. i have gripes with osteria too, but not every piece of meat is going to cost the biggest gripe is is this one server there. UGH! the most annoying human ever.

        and i was as annoyed as everyone else at silver bullet's comment. yeah, those are really the guys to be off wheeling and dealing. pffft.

        3 Replies
        1. re: mazza3

          nothing against garces or vetri who are both incredible chefs, I'm just wary of spending my money at giant restaurants where the focus is on numbers and maybe not as much on the food.

          when you serve hundreds of people a night with 60 or so employees there's a lot that can go wrong- or just not be as mind blowing as you expected.

          1. re: silverbullet69

            Does Osteria do over 100 covers a night?

            1. re: silverbullet69

              Just my opinion. But I can think of dozens of chefs throughout the country that fall in that category before Marc Vetri.

          2. I've been to Osteria several times and have enjoyed it every time. The portions are small and it is expensive I agree. But you only mentioned the portion size of the roasted pig and didn't mention if it tasted any good. Well?
            I can't explain the pizza. I've had their pizza more than once and the crust is almost too crisp and "crackery" for my taste.
            Finally, as one who claims to know authentic Italian cuisine well, what was your specific expectation from what you ordered in terms of flavor, texture, seasoning, etc?


            17 Replies
            1. re: Chinon00

              Well lets see.... I didn't get to taste the pig because there was only enough for a taste for my husband. We have had suckling pig a number of times in various places. There was no skin served with it which we would have expected with suckling pig. BTW it wasn't described as suckling pig just roast pig. And no mention of the price which was significantly higher than the regular entrees. One of my pet peeves.

              The artichokes tasted a bit like deep fried ones little seasoning, lots of grease. Tasty yes but really not a redo for me.

              The pizza was good at first bite but major areas were charred and burnt which probably explains the drowning in olive oil. I was so disgusted I couldn't venture to give it an accurate "tasting" review. Whats the diff? I wouldn't return nor would I recommend that anyone else return.

              My husband turned to me as we were leaving and said that I cook so much better than their chef that it was a joke. We eat out often at places like Matyson, Bar Ferdinand, Radicchio, Bistro 7, Figs, L'Oca, Blackbird, Destrito, Caffe Casta Diva, Branzino and I do a fair amount of cooking myself. Why would I waste my time and money at such a mediocre place when we have a wealth of great alternatives? IMHO it is all style and little substance.

              1. re: joluvscards

                Thanks for the response. The pizza seems to be your biggest complaint. I can't imagine being "disgusted" as you were in an obvously upscale place and not mentioning it to anyone. Did you consider having it sent back?
                Maybe it was an off night or maybe they have gone downhill. But one thing I do know is that from day one Osteria has been love or hate for virtually everyone. No one is ever indifferent about the place.

                1. re: Chinon00

                  An off night?? A restaurant of this caliber should not have an "off night" this bad.

                  I would have sent it back if I felt that I wanted to wait another 20-30 minutes for a replacement. I usually don't raise an issue unless it is a restaurant I frequent or am likely to return. Also the managment can view this as an biased attempt to get a bill adjustment. When three items were a disappointment and we don't intend to return, why bother. I am sure that someone at the restaurant reads chowhound..

                  I am sure that any chef worth their salt would know what the kitchen was turning out. If they don't shame on them.

                  Look you seem to like this place and I can understand defending a place you like. If you like it eat there. I am entitled to my opinion

                  1. re: joluvscards

                    Restaurants like the French Laundry, Jean George and L'Arpege have off nights. And you can trust they are a bit more upscale then Osteria.
                    As long as 'people' have frailties and shortcomings there will be mistakes made and bad nights. No difference then NFL games, designers of the space shuttle or OJ Simpson's retirement plans.

                    How management handles those mistakes is what sets professionals apart from the rest. Which is why bringing your dissatisfaction to the attention of management is a good idea.

                    1. re: joluvscards

                      You are certainly entitled to your opinion....especially in the face of those who love this place. Here's where I have a problem....IMHO..the restaurant has a million obligations to keep to it's customers. The customer has but a of them is to tell the restaurant when something is wrong. It's very easy to say "any chef worth their salt....shame on them"...and yes, it's true. But here's the deal: being a chef is about being a total control freak. Control over every single aspect of the operation. Sometimes the chef needs to sleep...most them are working 80hr weeks. Yes, this is their choice, and they don't need any pity. The point is, sometimes a bad plate goes out. It's unacceptable, but it happens. Now, it's your chance to become part of the solution. If a cook is making a pizza with too much oil on it...chances are he'll keep making it that way until he's told otherwise. A server looking at the pizza on the way to the table won't know it's wrong unless they're told otherwise...and a manager can't do anything to help you if she thinks everything is fine. Speak up....most of us in the kitchen know the difference between a customer with a BS complaint and a real one. I can't understand why someone who frequents some of the best restaurants in the city and is herself a good cook wouldn't feel the need to let someone know when they've been presented with something disgusting.

                      To everyone: Tired of being charged outrageous prices for mediocre or poor food??? THEN SPEAK UP!!!! Tell the managers what's up....let 'em have it. If you don't they'll just keep raking in the cash, while other customers keep walking in the door. Wanna lower their prices...don't just stop going to a place....stop going, and tell 'em EXACTLY why!!

                      That's why you should've become part of a community in here with the 'hounds....let's all try to help each other get better meals.

                      And takes about 3 minutes for a pizza to cook in a wood burning oven.

                      1. re: Major504

                        I vote with my feet. Also I suspect from the additional poor reviews that this was not an off night. The problem with speaking up particularly when knocking a board "fav" is that some tend to blame the poster, as in this case. I'll go to restaurants where the manager, server and chef can "usually" spot a problem and I don't have to rant about my disapproval.

                        If all we had to do to solve these problems is to "speak up" why have a chowhound board at all? Most of us use this board to filter out the hype places from the really good places.

                        Osteria will continue to do the same stuff in spite of the comments here until people stop going. Then they will either change or go out of business.

                        1. re: joluvscards

                          I think it is important to determine if your dissatisfaction with this meal was due to poor execution or subjective taste. Other then the greasy artichokes there is no indication the kitchen made an error. For instance one diner may be very happy with the portion size of the pig entree while another not. And when it comes to pizza? There may not be another food item discussed anywhere that is more subjective.

                          Speaking for myself I certainly respect your opinion. But then again based on your report I'm not willing to disregard Osteria as hype when there appears to be the possibility of personal preference.
                          I think that is what I look for the most in searching these boards. Find those with a similar taste to your own and decide what information is useful to you. Not to shun a restaurant based on a few opinions that very well may be subjective.

                          1. re: oysterspearls

                            Why is my post any different from all the others? Aren't all opinions basically subjective? We read, interpret and take from the reviews what we choose. That's the point. I simply stated my experience. Take from it what you wish.

                            1. re: joluvscards

                              Well not exactly all subjective. Like I mentioned up thread other then the artichokes there is nothing in your post indicating the restaurant failed.
                              It is very possible the very next person could write that the entree portion was just right for them. Or hear someone inquiring where to get the olive oil Vetri uses as they enjoyed it so much on their pizza.

                              Now if by chance you wrote you were not seated in a timely manner and were ignored by your server as Marc Vetri was smozzing a table of friends in earshot.
                              Or there was lipstick on my wine glass and my entree was over cooked and plated sloppy. Or we waited for our check after we repeatedly asked for it. These things would give the indidcation the restaurant was poor and lacking in some regard.

                              And to address the side dish? I have worked in some of the very best restaurants in the country and I believe I can give you an explanation.
                              They may have very well only had enough to accompany the intended dish.
                              Kitchens prep only what they intend to use to ensure quality and maintain food cost. You may say what would one side dish hurt? Well what would happen if they allowed it and six other people decided they wished to substitute the saffron potatoes? Or maybe eight or ten. Should they cancel the special for the evening because because they ran out of the side dish? In the middle of service it is not a easy task to prep another side as mise en place is the very foundation of a professional kitchen.

                              Please don't think I am criticizing your post as that is not my intention. For that matter I have never even been to Osteria.
                              I am only stating that for me your post indicated your husband prefers larger portions and you enjoy your pizza lighter on the olive oil.

                              1. re: oysterspearls

                                wouldn't an overcooked entree be just as subjective?

                                someone mentioned upthread and it is so true: people either tend to love osteria or hate it. perhaps that's cause it's so damn expensive. i really believe when i'm going out and spending $100+ per person on dinner, subjectivity should not play much of a part in my experience: i had damn well better LOVE it regardless. and if i'm not, for those prices, my top-notch server should detect that and rectify it. i had better believe that the chef put every available ounce of effort into my dish. i'd better leave feeling like i was treated like i was the only customer in the place, and not just a number. they should never have tables crammed in to crowded foot-traffic areas with diner's comfort as an afterthought (my personal gripe). i personally think it might be a fine place if the prices were a bit more ordinary, or perhaps it would make a fine business dinner on someone else's dime, but for that cost, i think a lot of people just expect more.

                                1. re: rabidog

                                  I assume there are those who prefer overcooked dried out pork. But I'm willing to believe the majority would agree overcooked and dry = poor execution by kitchen staff.

                                  Overcooked indicates poor technique. To small a portion, or for that matter to large indicates personal preference.

                                  1. re: rabidog

                                    subjectivity should not play much of a part in my experience: i had damn well better LOVE it regardless. (Quote)

                                    I must admit you have me puzzled after reading your comment. I can pretty much assure you the greatest chef alive cannot guarantee you will love everything he/ she cooks.
                                    $100 per person? I spent maybe five, six times that in restaurants like Per Se and the French Laundry and walked away not loving everything.
                                    It had nothing to do with flaws in the cooking as it was more to do with personal taste.

                                    1. re: oysterspearls

                                      i'm standing by it - i don't pay that much to be anything but wowed (and who would?), and if the opposite occurs, i leave a review much like the OP's and i don't return. i am sure no chef is perfect and to please 100% of the people 100% of the time is impossible, otherwise this message board would not exist. however, i would assume a place charging higher prices has a higher percentage rate of pleased customers - and should try hard to ensure such a high rate of satisfaction. keeping it relevant to this thread, osteria, it seems, does not.

                                      yes, $100 is spendy to me. rarely do i eat a meal i feel is worthy of $100. so places charging $100 as opposed to, say, $20, have bigger shoes to fill naturally. i've never had the pleasure of dining at a $600 per person restaurant as you have, and making the kind of money i do i can't see ever doing so in my lifetime. i have never, ever once in my life eaten anything worth $600. if i do one day, however, i might change my stance and up the dining ante.

                                      1. re: rabidog

                                        On a cooks salary you can believe it took me many months of throwing coins in a can.
                                        Sometimes my wife and I will save some here and there for a year or more to visit a restaurant we wish to try. Really good food just may be my only vice. LOL

                                        Totally agree with you on the point of the higher the cost the higher the expectations.

                              2. re: oysterspearls

                                All opinions are subjective, if they weren't they would be facts.

                              3. re: Major504

                                Worth mentioning Gourmet Magazine featured Vetri and Osteria in this months issue. After reading it I doubt higher praise could be giving to ether. Can't foresee them going out of business anytime soon.

                              4. re: Major504

                                When I had terrible service my first time at Osteria, I spoke up. I told the server I was unhappy. So she got her manager. Her manager told us we were wrong and they were in the right.

                                We then found them in the corner pointing at us and whispering. The server tossed the check on our table and wouldn't even look at us.

                                So, I figured, it's a large establishment, let's give them the benefit of the doubt. I called the next day and left a message for Marc Vetri. Never heard back.

                      2. Thank you for your post. I agree 100% YUCK is indeed the word that I would use to describe my dinner from one week ago. Had the rabbit over polenta and it was damned near inedible. Visually disgusting, the polenta had zero taste and that poor rabbit was so overcooked and bland it was a crime. Pizza was over salted and soggy and the vegetable antipasta was all beets. Best part of the meal were the breadsticks.

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: tilemaker

                          wow, has this place gone downhill since i last visited about 10 months ago? while the overall experience wasn't my cup of tea, i did think the pizza was excellent. and i certainly don't remember coming home ranting. just resolved to do a little more research before the next birthday dinner pick! :)

                          1. re: rabidog

                            I hate to think it but they may have gone downhill over the past year. We used to try to get there a couple of times a month even though it was very expensive. The last two times we went we were disappointed. Both times the previously wonderful pizza was a problem. Once it was not crispy at all, limp and dripping in olive oil. The second time was the opposite, large burned sections that were inedible. And that second time (last time we were there, before Thanksgiving), my main dish was very over salted. So, we'll not be back. In the past, we've usually gotten asked by the waitstaff about the meal but not those two times. If they'd asked, I'd have mentioned the problems. But since I was writing it off my list of my 'go-to' places, I just let it go.

                            We did go to Vetri in December for our anniversary and I had, without reservation, the best meal/experience of my entire life. And it was easily the most expensive meal of my life. They changed their weekend chef's tasting menu to only the Grand size and didn't change their website to reflect this. If I had known, I would have cancelled. But we didn't know and we were there and it was our anniversary, so we had this incredible meal for big bucks. Way too much food, and way too expensive. I did mention to them at the time that we were unaware of the menu change and they didn't care.

                            1. re: Carole

                              goodness - i had to go look it up and that IS a pricey dinner!!! however if you say it was the best you've had, i'm going to assume it was worth it? i've wanted to try them out for ages but they never seem to have any availability listed on opentable.

                              1. re: rabidog

                                You have to call them to get a reservation - I don't think it ever works through Opentable any more.

                                Was it worth it?

                                That is really hard to answer. If money was easy, it would be a no-brainer. We ended up canceling plans to buy something for us for our anniversary (we usually buy some kind of gadget) because we'd basically spent all we wanted to spend on the dinner. At first it sorta had a "Babette's Feast" feel to it. We just weren't ready for the extra bucks when it was a stretch to go there at all. Of course, since we were there already, and spending all this money already, I went for the wine pairing (husband did not). That jacked the price up even more.

                                If you can afford it, you do have to go. And get the wine pairing. It was tons of fun, not at all stuffy, has great waitstaff, and certainly is a meal to remember. There were 5(!) amuse boushe ... before the appetizer. Each one increased in taste from the one before.The amuse boushe came with complementary proseccio for each of us. It's those little touches that really make it memorable.

                                So, yes it was worth it. This time.

                                1. re: Carole

                                  good to hear it! sounds like a TON of food. i really want to do this, but should probably wait for brighter financial days! :)

                                  1. re: rabidog

                                    As the SIG in the original post, let me make a few observations.

                                    1. We don't bother 'correcting' an establishment when we have no intention of returning. Why do we have an obligation to fix it?
                                    2. It is inexcusable for a restaurant to say they don't have enough of a side dish to use it with another dish. I happen to have some food intoleranaces, and I could not even have the main course that was paired with the side dish I found interesting.
                                    3. The portion of the pig was just as my SIG described it. A few bites. Someone asked about the flavor. It was flavorful, but just like everything else we had, it was too greasy. In a way, I was glad the portion wasn't bigger, because 15 minutes later I was sorry I had eaten any of it.

                                    SIG of joluvscards

                                    1. re: loujimbabe

                                      We'd been eating there one to three times a month for over a year and the last two times had terrible pizza. Something definitely got screwed up in the kitchen. One time it was swimming in olive oil and the other it was burnt severely. Previous to that the pizza was a real treat -- crispy and super thin with wonderful toppings --- to die for. I'm so sorry it's gone. Add that to other not up to par dishes and they are no longer on my list of places to go. Especially with the prices they charge. For that amount of money, I should at least get consistency.

                                      I definitely with you on #1. I'm not about to make an unhappy situation even more tiresome when there's no way I'm coming back. Makes no sense. Unless I thought they would address it by a new dish or by taking it off the bill, I'd just let it go.

                                      I have to say that during our couple of years of going there we did have a couple of missed courses. In those cases, they went overboard in compensating us for the situation (e.g. lots of free food). Missing a course isn't nearly the same as getting food not up to their previous standard or even to their reviewed standard. i could forgive occasional remedied missed course, but not the turn the food has taken (at least in my experience).

                                      And I'm with rabidog, $100 is spendy to me and I do expect the food to match it.