There was huge build-up. Many people from the food world and some of Philadelphia's who's who kept telling me Vetri is the best restaurant in the city and the best Italian restaurant in the country. A tall order to fill.
A call-ahead had the first good omen: there was no dress code. No coat was necessary, and jeans were acceptable. For a guy who hates dressing up--and wears Wallabee shoes as a protest symbol--being able to eat in jeans was nice and relaxing. Crazy mix ups made me about 45 minutes late for the reservation. No worries. The staff was completely relaxed about it. Another very good sign.
We selected the tasting menu which is not set but is made by the chef from dishes on the main menu and based on a whim. The waitress pro-actively asked about any dietary restrictions or preferences and indicated the chef was completely accommodating. Yet another very good sign. When we requested one of the signature dishes be brought out beforehand to be nibbled, the sommelier came to the table to suggest the dish was too rich and that he would recommend serving it as the pasta course. A fourth good omen--all before the very first dish was served!
Dinner began with a series of four different amuse bouche. Focaccia with chevre and diced black trumpet mushrooms was beautiful. The chevre was a bit too subdued for me, and the mushroom pieces were lovely but too sparse to have the flavor stand out. The mozzarella with brussels sprouts was also beautiful with the green leaves against pure white squares, but while the mozzarella was fresh and the texture properly gelatinous, it was also a bit too mild to really sing.