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Feb 1, 2009 05:41 PM

Osteria schmosteria

First a few facts that will give you an idea of what this place is like: (1) There are two wines under $60 (In case you were momentarily fooled by the lack of mention of wine on their website, they are not BYOB). (2) You will have at least 4 different people come to your table, including a man with a bow tie with no other role than to ask if everything is OK. (3) If you don't order an appetizer, your unused silverware will be replaced before the entree arrives with identical silverware. (4) Your wine glasses arrive at the table with a coating of red wine already in them from who knows what bottle (maybe this is some custom at "fancy" restaurants of which I am not aware - maybe there's some purpose.)

Other gripes: "Gnocchi" at this place appear to mean "Gnocco". That is, when one of us tried to order it, the waitress informed us that this $16 primo was just one large medallion and not sized to be enough for a meal. We didn't order it. In Italy, sometimes the primi are in small portions and it's intended that you will also order a secondo, and things are priced accordingly...By the way, the word "Osteria" implies "a simple, local, unpretentious type of place" according to the Italian (from Italy, not South Philly) member of our group. A full meal here would cost (about) $15 for antipasto, (about) $18 for primo, (about) $28 for secondo, and (about) $10 for dessert. Did I mention that the least expensive bottle of wine cost $45...? Hardly an "Osteria" in my book....

Granted, the food is well done. We mostly had pizzas and they were delicious. But there is nothing about this restaurant that would remind you of an Italian osteria. If you order the cheapest bottle (only one) from the menu, only have pizzas (and perhaps a contorno) and no desserts and no coffee you'll escape for under $200 for a group of 4. If you are up for a fancy meal you might have a blast here, but Melograno, believe it or not, is much closer to an Italian osteria than this place. Be warned, and enjoy, if you will.

p.s. We were annoyed about different bottles of sparkling water arriving throughout the meal ... and being poured in our glasses ... never asking if we wanted more. To their credit we were only charged $5 for the 2 bottles of water (fixed price?) ... but it would have been nice to know during the meal that we weren't being scammed. Anyway, too much attention (in every sense of the word) and not a place to have an affordable relaxed meal.

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  1. someone posted a while ago that the wine glasses get this treatment to rid them of any dishwasher taste. as i'm not a wine connoisseur by any stretch, i personally find this silly, but whatever, if they want to take the extra time to do this in acknowledgment that someone out there will appreciate it, that's their prerogative.

    you didn't specify if you actually ordered 2 bottles of water or if they brought you water you didn't order and charged you for it.

    CH being a food-centric discussion board, i feel this review is unfair to osteria. you do mention good food, but almost as an afterthought to price. i think it's fine to mention the food's value in terms of quality vs. price (see looooong debate on the last negative osteria thread, not too long ago), but to harp on a piece of gnocci you didn't sample isn't fair.

    1 Reply
    1. re: rabidog

      I have to agree with rabidog. I just went to Osteria last night. It WAS expensive, but what do you expect going into this place. Granted, Osterie in Italy are homey places, but even there, there has been a trend to making them the "hip" place and upping the price. And while I wouldn't regularly spend 50$ a head on dinner (poor college student here... it was for my birthday with the parents), I have to say eating pasta that tasted EXACTLY like I was in Padova, Italy... near priceless. Cheaper than a plane ticket, at least.

    2. It sounds as though your comment that the name Osteria is misapplied here is a valid one. However, it seems ingenuous to expect the trendiest Italian chef in Philadelphia to open a casual tavern, and one quick look at the web site will indicate that this is not going to be an inexpensive meal. Also, you can't expect others to find value in your crabbing about the size of a portion you never saw, and your other complaints, about silverware being replaced and water topped off, would be described by some as fine service. It sounds as though you were determined to have a rotten time. Perhaps you would have been happier if you left and went to a less expensive restaurant.

      1. First, know that I have not been to Osteria yet. So...I'm gonna agree with Vlad (although I would hesitate a bit to call Vetri "trendy"), it seems like you either wanted to have a bad time, or just wanted to come in here and trash a highly regarded restaurant. I've heard plenty of good and bad about this place, so it seems like a matter of taste. Regarding your post...the website says "Gnocchi alla Romana" This is not to be confused with usual's more like a gnocchi meets polenta type cake and not at all as small as the standard gnocchi. Hard to describe, really....but the fact that it is one piece should be expected. The complaint about the replacing of silverware is kinda weak. Sure, it may be unnecessary for them do it, but I can't see how this would bother anyone. I've heard of the wine-glass treatment before....I as well am no wine buff, but I don't see how it can be considered anything but good service....unless you WANT to assume their putting some crappy wine in your glass. Even if it was cheap wine, it still costs them to do it. And the water issue??? This is just plain silliness. If you ordered 2 bottles (or even 1 as the price suggests)...then how can you complain about the way it was served? I would generally prefer that a server not ask me if I need a refill and just do it.....that's their job. I would also prefer to assume that I'm not being scammed rather than the opposite. If you felt you were, perhaps you should have made mention to one of the three people asking you if things were OK. Again, it seems like you were looking for issues.

        As for the price, well that's just the restaurant they are. Whether you agree or not, they've been called the best new restaurant/ best restaurant/ best Italian etc.....they're the hottest thing going right now....what did you expect? If you want more affordable Italian, the city's overflowing with good ones...we could spend days naming them in here.