Craig LaBan revisited Osteria Jersey for his birthday dinner and was mightily disappointed with what he found, he revealed in today's live dining chat. Open for just under a year, Marc Vetri's New Jersey reboot of his North Broad favorite demonstrated some serious quality slide at LaBan's most recent visit — serious enough to warrant a rating drop down to two bells.
While LaBan was originally impressed enough to file a glowing three-bell review back in February, today he wondered aloud if that wasn't a result of "the company’s A-team working there at different times for the first opening months until the reviews came in." This time around, it seems like the operation was lacking oversight:
The veggie antipasti was skimpy, with hardly enough Brussels sprouts for each of us to even taste, and the wood platter dominated instead by a giant pile of arugula that was so salty it was inedible. Too little salt, meanwhile, left our old favorite chicken liver rigatoni flat. The meatballs, sausage and homemade rigatoni were fantastic, but the dish as a whole was also underseasoned. By dessert, a pasty cheesecake buried beneath a landslide of pungent cinnamon dust, Osteria Jersey’s two-bell fate was sealed.
Service lacked polish, too — some of that overly salty arugula hung around on the table through the end of the meal, and LaBan never managed to get any wine.
Beyond his issues with one flawed birthday dinner, LaBan expresses a bit of concern about what this performance could mean for the Vetri family's ambitious expansion hopes. (Lo Spiedo should be open soon, to be followed by what could be a whole slew of Pizzerias Vetri.)
The Vetri crew had so far been immune to such inconsistencies because of its exceptionally deliberate approach to growth and a long track record of excellence. But consistency matters, especially for restaurants with high ratings and prices (dinner for 4=$214). And with the pace of new Vetri & Co. openings about to accelerate [...] I am officially, slightly concerned.