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Jul 13, 2012 12:50 PM


In case anyone missed it, the menu on Vetri's website now states that in September 2012 the price will rise to $155 (from the current $135). Whether they give you anything extra for the $20 is left unstated. Given that Le Bec Fin came out of the gate at $150, I don't think Vetri's new price point is a coincidence.

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  1. I may be the only person in Philadelphia (and beyond) who didn't think it was worth it at $135. I'll look back on my pre-tasting menu Vetri dinners with fondness but I won't be paying $155. Not a chance.

    27 Replies
    1. re: raclette

      I love Vetri, but I think it's borderline at $135. Keep in mind that Philadelphia also doesn't have very many super high-priced restaurants. In town their only competition is Le Bec Fin ($150) and The Fountain ($145).

      Other data points to consider:

      Le Bernardin 7-course tasting: $145
      Eleven Madison Park: $125
      Del Posto: $145
      Jean-Georges: $168
      The Modern: $155
      Le Cirque LV: $135
      Corton: $115 (7 course menu)

      1. re: deprofundis

        You are quoting EMP and Le Bernardin Lunch and Smaller Tasting menu, respectively. Apples to Apples, please.

        As to the others - Del Posto and Le Cirque are not in Vetri's league and Corton is a steal. Probably the most underrated fine dining restaurant in the US.

        1. re: uhockey

          EMP's smaller 4-course dinner menu is not that small and is $125.
          Le Bernardin's offers two dinner tasting menus at $145 and $190, the major difference being luxury ingredients, which Vetri scarcely uses.

          I have not been to Del Posto (yet), but I enjoyed Le Cirque LV better than Vetri.

          1. re: deprofundis

            The 4 course dinner is not the tasting menu. Period. And if you want to talk portion sizes, Le Bernardin is like eating nothing at all. I could do their tasting, then head to EMP for the 4 course.


            1. re: uhockey

              "I could do their tasting, then head to EMP for the 4 course."

              I won't argue with that.

              1. re: deprofundis

                FWIW, I'm not arguing that $155 seems a bit steep for Vetri, but in my honest opinion it is the best Italian food in the country. Additionally their table count is quite small compared to Le Bernardin, EMP, Jean-Georges, etc and considering his philanthropy, contributions to Philly's overall gastronomy, and focus on sourcing, quality, and service it is worth it. It is a destination restaurant, much like all the others you listed.


        2. re: deprofundis

          Just a point of information - you don'thave to pay $145 for a beautiful dinner at the Fountain. You can get the $85 menu, which is three courses and quite a few choices. Definitely ample for dinner. I think the higher priced option was for five courses, but we all opted for the three courses and were satisfied and happy.

          1. re: sylviag

            Correct. You can also get shorter menus at Le Bernardin for $125, Jean Georges or Daniel for $108, the Modern for $95, etc.

            There aren't that many restaurants that are "tasting menu only" type places. Honestly I'm kind of over the whole tasting menu thing. It's usually just too damn much food.

            1. re: deprofundis

              Per Se.
              The French Laundry
              Brooklyn Fare

              Nope, not many, just the best.


              1. re: uhockey

                Per Se offers a la carte in the salon. Le Bernardin, Daniel, Jean Georges, Eleven Madison Park, The Modern, and Del Posto all offer shorter prix fixe menus. They suck, right? At least you sit at actual tables, as opposed to Brooklyn Fare or Ko. And Masa was smacked down by the NY Times due to crappy service.

                My point is that it would be nice to have the option of, say, a 4-course $95 menu at Vetri. It would not diminish the experience. Not everyone wants to leave dinner feeling like they're about to vomit.

                1. re: deprofundis

                  I ate with two older friends with 'normal' appetites. Neither left wanting to vomit.

                  I also did not say that any of the above restaurants "suck" - though from my standpoint neither JG or Del Posto ever warrants a return. And why are we discussing "tables?" Why not discuss exclusivity or number of patrons per evening, where Vetri seats FAR fewer than Le Bernardin, Daniel, JG, EMP, The Modern, Del Posto, or Per Se? And, at Per Se's Salon you sit at coffee tables.

                  My point is that Vetri is the upper eschelon of your city's dining scene. You should be PROUD to have it, and he Marc gives you 3 other ways to experience his vision if you should choose not to pay the tab for Vetri.


                  1. re: uhockey

                    So why are you rattling off a handful of places spread out all over the country, when the fact is that most great places offer a prix fixe option? You sit at coffee tables in the salon at Per Se. At Ko you sit on unpadded wooden barstools without lumbar support.

                    1. re: deprofundis

                      "There aren't that many restaurants that are "tasting menu only" type places."

                      That is why. And I was underwhelmed by Ko.

                      Fact is, if you look at the S.Pelligrino list MANY of the best in the world are "tasting only" type places. It isn't like Vetri is doing something outlandish here.


                      1. re: deprofundis

                        As this thread might be construed as 'getting evil', l will say l agree with both of you but lean towards uhockey, as ignoring silly issues, Vetri is a stellar place, would l prefer the a la carte of old, of course, but not available anymore, thus the pragmatist in me says it is what it is and so go as is. That is what it is all about. Have had too many pre fixe meals, but at some got many things that would never ordered at a la carte and would so have missed the party. As Degustation in Prague where l had four tomato waters, they were so perfect.
                        Thus go with the flow and go as if offered. Sometimes you are too full, unlike uhockey who is never filled, but most times you get a positive surprise. Did not order a prix fixe at Red Medicine in LA as not offered, was full and did not get a dessert, l am an idiot, maybe best desserts in country and l missed.

                        1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                          So why can't they offer both? Uhockey's argument seems to be along the lines of "all the great places are tasting menu only" and "it would dilute their exclusivity". I don't buy either of those arguments.

                          1. re: deprofundis

                            They can't as they are full every night, and with their flagship they are getting the max out of their 28 or so seats. There are enough people to fill their seats regardless of conditions and they would be foolish to do it any other way.
                            Many of the three Michelin starred places in the world lose money on their flagship and make their nut on the gift shops and their 'second tier' places as does Gagnaire, G Savoy, and Roellinger.

                            1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                              But they're not really full every night. Weekends, yes. During the week, no. I bet you could go on Opentable right now and get reservations for a weekday next week.

                            2. re: deprofundis

                              Its about yield per diner...You assure yourself of the yield you want through prix fixe.

                              1. re: cwdonald

                                Some will scoff at this, but I think it also has to do with the vision that the chef has. Before the move to the fixed price menu, I had heard stories of customers who would come in and simply order the spinach gnocchi and nothing else. As much as you want to say that a customer has the right to order whatever they want, can you really say that Vetri can truly be appreciated after eating one dish?

                                1. re: Philly Ray

                                  Well I can definitively say that Vetri wouldn't be able to make the money they want if folks only order one dish. You call it experience.. i call it revenue management .. net net the same thing.

                                2. re: cwdonald

                                  Correct. It is precisely why Meadowood made their decision AFTER getting the 3* and why Alinea did away with the smaller menu/bigger menu and consolidated to one.


                                3. re: deprofundis

                                  I said that? I don't think I did. I simply offered proof to the contrary of what you said. You took it the wrong way.

                                  Clearly by starting this thread with HIKE in all caps you were displaying your issues with the decision. I'm saying your city, with its ever present inferiority complex to NYC, should be happy to have him at any price.


                                4. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                  They aren't quite up to wd~50 standards, but yeah, you missed out. Next time you're out there I'll drive up and meet ya so we can tear through the menu.


                                  1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                    ...and for the record I was last full on 5/21/12. I was literally debating sleeping in the car because the concept of driving 5 miles to the hotel seemed daunting.


                    2. re: raclette

                      I was there recently (I had been a few years ago when it was a la carte) and frankly felt ripped off, I don't think it would have been worth it at half the price. I visited Osteria and Vetri in the space of a couple weeks and Vetri didn't hold up very well against its supposedly downmarket counterpart. I wonder how Vetri himself splits his time these days. I think Brad Spence was in the kitchen at Vetri the first time I was there and while I didn't think it was worth the price, I did really enjoy it. Not so my more recent visit.

                      1. re: raclette

                        I agree. Last time we were there was a Saturday night last year. Didn't think it was worth it. Have dined at Vetri several times since they've opened but those visits were during the week and on Fridays (when they still allowed a la carte on Fridays...or ever for that matter). The Saturday night tasting menu was simply not worth it IMHO.

                        1. re: raclette

                          You are not the only one. My daughter took me there because she loved it. We both were extremely disappointed. The food was just not the best and at that price you expect close to perfection. The service was such that as soon as we finished one course the next was already there. We also had the wine tasting and we couldn't finish them quickly enough. I would not go back at any price.

                        2. I haven't eaten at Vetri or anything in that price range but I will say that it is a good thing to see Center City supporting more very high end restaurants.

                          12 Replies
                          1. re: barryg

                            As a philadelphia comparison, do people know what the tasting menus at LaCroix and Le Bec(no hyphen) Fin are going for these days?

                            1. re: cwdonald

                              Lacroix is $75, but the menu is predetermined and the portions are "tasting menu sized". Don't get me wrong, you will leave satisfied and I feel that the meal we had at Lacroix was one of the best I have had in Philly. I have not been back to Vetri since they instituted the fixed price menu, but from what I understand, you are not really limited in what you can order (within reason, I assume) and you get "full sized" Vetri portions (not that they are gigantic to begin with). Others can correct me on that if necessary.

                              1. re: Philly Ray

                                You are not really unlimited in what you can order at Vetri. Also, you don't really order, your meal is arranged by the chef. But they do honor requests. They have been known to throw extras at regulars, but the standard meal at Vetri consists of a glass of prosecco, a crudite and a plate of amuses, 2 antipasti, 2 pastas, 1 main, an intermezzo, 1 dessert, and piccola pasticceria. So basically 6 (tasting-sized) courses plus 4 amuses and prosecco. The courses aren't really that big, but they add up.

                                1. re: deprofundis

                                  So Basically what we have here is the best restaurant in Philadelphia saying that they deserve to charge the most... I doubt this will hurt their business, and it allows them to "keep" their position, signaled by price, as the best restaurant in the city, (whether it is deserved is a matter of debate of course) but economists agree that price is often a signal of perceived quality. In the drug industry for example we launch drugs and the price selection relative to products on the market suggests value. If a new product comes out equal or less, it is often perceived as less valuable. Vetri is just saying it is as good as the new kid on the block, LBF v2.

                                  1. re: cwdonald

                                    This is a very well stated post, and I totally agree. It is why Urasawa keeps prices a few bucks less than Masa, as well.


                            2. re: barryg

                              Can I just comment that spending $155 (or any amount in that range) on a meal is preposterous.

                                1. re: Delucacheesemonger


                                  Perhaps Brooklyn Fare needs to raise prices so I can get in


                                  1. re: uhockey

                                    Vetri is several orders of magnitude easier to get into than Brooklyn Fare. Besides, this isn't New York. Our economy isn't built around Wall Street workers with 7-figure bonuses.

                                    1. re: deprofundis

                                      Then imagine how much Vetri would cost if it were in New York.

                                      1. re: Philly Ray

                                        I would expect it to cost less... due to the competition it would face.

                                        1. re: cwdonald

                                          Questionable - what would be the cost of a Michelin 2-3* Italian spot with very limited seating in Manhattan?


                            3. During most of the GP days at Le Bec Fin a patron would feel they had a special experience in service, style and food and would happily peel off the bucks. The national ratings and the stars somewhat helped to confirm the reasonableness of the expenditure. Ones expectations are high in Manhattan's top restaurants for food quality, service and prices, and usually realized. I certainly hope our Philly top spots can provide fulfillment and satisfaction and thus justification for their prices. IMHO after dining at Vetri's restaurants; my bets on bests are with the boys from the left coast laundry.

                              1. For historical interest, I dug up old menus from Vetri on the internet archive. The furthest back I could get was Winter 2006.

                                Winter 2006: 6 course tasting $90. 8 course $115.
                                Summer 2008 price hike: Tasting menu $115. "Grand" tasting menu $135
                                Spring 2011 Vetri ditches a la carte. Chef's tasting menu $135.
                                September 2012 price hike: Chef's tasting menu $155.

                                Last archived a la carte prices (Fall 2010):

                                Average antipasta: $16
                                Average pasta: $19
                                Average main: $36
                                Average dessert: (not listed)

                                Prices for notable dishes:

                                Foie gras pastrami: $22
                                Sweet onion crepe: $14
                                Spinach gnocchi: $20
                                Almond tortellini: $22
                                Goat: $36
                                Guinea hen leg: $36

                                I never dined there while it was a la carte. Does anybody know if the portions for a la carte dishes were larger?

                                1 Reply
                                1. I'm surprised no one mentioned that it might simply be a result of skyrocketing costs for meat, dairy,etc due to many factors beyond a chef's control. He can't GIVE AWAY food and not make any money and expect to be in business long. I don't think many people here understand just how razor thin the profit margins are for most restaurants and how beef, pork prices etc going up significantly in the past 5 years affects that.

                                  13 Replies
                                  1. re: 94Bravo

                                    Great point........ for a great discussion of this see David Chang's discussion of prices especially about high end ingredients.


                                    1. re: cwdonald

                                      I think you were right the first time, LBF is priced at $150 and Vetri raised their price purely to say "We're still #1". They're not, but if people are still willing to pay, oh well.

                                      1. re: cwdonald

                                        Cwdonald, if you didn't know, Foobooz just wrote about this thread and quoted you. I think you should demand compensation as your quote makes up most of the article.


                                      2. re: 94Bravo

                                        Agreed. They can't give away food. But the simple fact is for the price (before the hike) one can get a better meal somewhere else - better in preparation, presentation, and number of variety of dishes that come with the tasting.

                                        Recently went there to show a friend what Philadelphia had to offer. I was embarrassed at the end of the meal when my friend felt obligated to praise the dinner - without much enthusiasm. To me, some dishes simply tasted very 'tired' and 'off' for the 'tasting menu only' meal..

                                        I made up my mind not to go back that day...not before they make significant improvements.

                                        1. re: borntolovefood

                                          Over rated, over priced, over hyped in a town looking for "the next best" following LBF. Vetri will do just fine here filling a price point enough diners are most willing meet. In their quest to be best; seems now there are too many negative customer comments to be overlook.

                                          1. re: Bacchus101

                                            Well, there aren't really *that* many negative comments. Every restaurant, no matter how great, is going to have some people that didn't like it or maybe went there on a bad night. I will say that I've been to Vetri several times and the vast majority of the time everything is spot-on. Last time I went I thought the execution was off on a couple of their signature dishes (first time I ever experienced that), but everything was generally very good and there were still 2 or 3 "wow" courses. I still consider it the best in Philly, but I haven't been to the new LBF yet.

                                            1. re: deprofundis

                                              For $135 per person (let alone $155), no wine, tax, or tip included, there should not be any such thing as a "bad night". For many diners, Vetri is the type of place they get to go to once or twice in their lives. Every aspect of the experience needs to be stellar every single time.

                                              I also haven't been to the new LBF yet, I plan to try it next month.

                                              1. re: Buckethead

                                                I agree, at those prices there should never be a bad night, but it does still happen. And the higher the price gets, the less margin for error they leave themselves.

                                                1. re: Buckethead

                                                  I agree with this - which is why I don't generally go back to a highly priced meal if they fail me the first time (Jean Georges.)

                                                  I've been to Vetri twice. Will go again next time I'm in Philly.


                                                2. re: deprofundis

                                                  I think this is a very interesting debate. I was surprised to see grumblings against Vetri surface the last few months, and this seems like just the right thread for everyone to be venting those sentiments.

                                                  We recently started going to Vetri once a year (though only twice so far - it's a new tradition).

                                                  For my second visit (last Dec.) I noticed the same thing, where I found myself enjoying the signature dishes less than the new experiences. I don't know if that is the by-product of the kitchen being more excited by the new dishes and investing more in their preparation, or if it was my tastebuds that were more invigorated by the new dishes.

                                                  I think when I am paying $135 for a meal, or I guess $155 this December, I am paying for the excitement of new flavors and new experiences as much as I am paying for the other aspects of quality. At a price point of $50-60 pp, I am very happy with stellar food that I've had before, but when you are doubling that, well, I really want to have my socks knocked off. I personally wouldn't want foie gras pastrami, onion crepe, almond torellini, and spinach gnocchi every singe time I went there (though to completely undermine my argument I did have the baby goat both times and I actually thought it was better the 2nd time). I think this year I will ask for none of the signatures, but I will still be happy to go.

                                                  For what it's worth (very little I know), I personally think that moving exclusively to the tasting menu is appropriate. As much as I think it would be great to pop in for a quick plate of pasta on a weeknight, I think that would be significantly short-changing the experience, and now that there are other alternatives in the Vetri family of restaurants, you should be locked in for the full experience at the showcase. While I wish there was an abbreviated version for lighter eaters like my SO & I, as the customer that's not really up to me, and if they can keep the res books as full as they want without an alternative, so be it.

                                                  1. re: tfalbo

                                                    In my case it wasn't a matter of taste, the execution was botched on 2 of the signatures. For the goat, the polenta underneath was lumpy and tasted burnt. Not a pleasant smoky flavor from cooking over a wood fire; this was burnt. The almond tortellini were rolled out too thick and were oddly undersauced. These are the only 2 errors I've experienced out of the few dozen dishes I have tried there. There were also a few real stunning dishes that night, so I wouldn't write them off just yet.

                                                    I agree that they shouldn't go back to a la carte, but an abbreviated prix fixe that requires less committment of time, money, and stomach space would be nice.

                                                    ETA: I estimate I've tried over 50 dishes at Vetri and only had 1 I didn't like, plus the 2 poorly executed. Additionally, I've had several smashing dishes that were among the finest anywhere. So they have around a 95% success rate, which is pretty good for any restaurant. One of the dangers in tasting menus is that the more plates they send out, the more likely one of them is going to be a dud. Even Vetri isn't immune to that.

                                            2. re: 94Bravo

                                              you're not really saying that $135 is "giving away" food, are you?
                                              yes, you need to raise your prices when your materials go up. and if you have a loyal staff then those people should get raises.
                                              But this $135 was already enough to scare me off...

                                              1. re: Bob Loblaw

                                                Indeed, the price increase is almost definitely market positioning and possibly in response to increased demand.