What can be said about Marc Vetri's hall-of-fame flagship that hasn't already been said? Well, at the time of this writing, the national restaurant industry was abuzz with the news that the illustrious chef-restaurateur had sold much of his empire to Urban Outfitters. So there's that. But its cornerstone, Vetri, remains intact—and what a cornerstone it is. A stately yet intimate Washington Square West townhouse sets the stage for an eight-course meal that, being painstakingly tailored to each guest, is truly once-in-a-lifetime, ranging perhaps from a seasonal crudo and the renowned sweet-onion crepe with truffle fondue to a raviolo stuffed with squash confited in honey butter, salt-baked branzino, and pistachio flan or chocolate-polenta souffle. The caliber of the wine list goes without saying; rare beer pairings, however, are a revelation.
Zeppoli, the Collingswood, NJ BYOB under the command of Vetri-alum Joey Baldino, snuck in at number 20 on the list, with the Time Out staff claiming it to be akin to an "old-school red-sauce parlor". A gross understatement, for sure, but the rest of it reads nicely:
Representing a total departure from all of the above, Zeppoli comes about as close to an old-school red-sauce parlor as this list gets: The 35-seat dining room is modest and quaint, the core Sicily-centric menu never changes, the booze is strictly BYO. But it more than earns its inclusion, just as chef-owner Joey Baldino earned his stripes in the kitchens of not only Marc Vetri but also Alice Waters and Daniel Boulud, among others (including that of his own grandparents in Philadelphia). Platters of antipasti spilling forth like jewels and coniglio alla pizzaiola (rabbit stewed with tomatoes and herbs) count among his most beloved staples, although nightly specials charm and wow by turns, from baccalà mantecato (whipped salt cod) with artichokes to the ever-popular spaghetti con seppie. And for dessert—besides the namesake doughnut holes, that is—there's house-made gelato, garnished with pizzelle that Baldino's mother prepares herself.