by Andrew Marder, special to EdibleDC
"That's an awesome watch," I say to a man who's tucked in the corner with me, trying to catch a breath from the maddening crowds.
"Thanks, I saw it on Instgram."
He lives upstairs from the newly opened Pizzeria Vetri on 14th St. NW. It's the fourth location for the Philly-based brand and the first in the District. For its grand opening, the place has packed its walls with locals, friends, family and at least one "member of the media."
How does one end up eating rolled breads and sipping local beer in the name of The Media? The world may never know.
Mr. Watch and I are standing in the youngest of Marc Vetri's restaurants. The story began almost two decades ago with the opening of Vetri in Philadelphia's Center City. Chef Vetri went on to open five other concepts, largely within the Metro Philly area.
Pizzeria Vetri is the family's fast casual pizza brand and the kickoff party is a fabulous reflection of the potential clientele. Everyone from the local family with four kids to the guy in a three-piece suit has shown up.
Bluejacket and Buffalo & Bergen are behind the bar, whipping out local beer alongside Tito's infused cocktails. I immediately forget both a name and a face, greeting the Buffalo & Bergen rep like an old friend. We've never met.
She doesn't hold it against me, though, sliding a lovely orange-ginger soda across the bar. At this point in the evening, I'm still working off a Bikeshare-induced sweat. Things cool down even further after a Grayjacket farmhouse ale. It's food time.
Jeff Benjamin has been working with the Vetri family since the company's first days. He recommends the Rotolo, rolled bread with ricotta and pistachio pesto that wait staff are bringing around in bunches on gleaming, circular serving platters. I almost feel bad for the man in the Vetri shirt as I effectively mug him, taking the last roll.
"I bring these home to my kids all the time," Jeff says.
I break away to grab a slice of the real deal. Revelers are lined up four rows deep to grab the hot pizza as it's setup right in front of the kitchen. Pizzeria Vetri is centered on a massive Marra Forni brand brick oven, tucked behind sheets of glass and manned by a small army of chefs.
The long, rectangular pizzas slide in looking like pure potential and come out looking like rock stars. I try the Margherita, I nibble the Melanzana, I elbow an old woman out the way just to get a slice of the Pepperoni.
"I'm with the media!" I bellow as she crashes to the floor. I'm pretty sure this is the sort of thing the founding fathers had in mind when they were working on the First Amendment.
This is good pizza. These are good people. There's a man in a Star Trek shirt eating a slice and smiling from ear to ear. The DJ is blasting over in the corner, but you can still hear the occasional click of the oven fired crust over the music.
This is very good pizza. I snag two more Rotolos and duck out the door before I undo three months of exercise and diet. There's a line outside of folks waiting to head in and grab a slice of the action. I don't know if they've got plans, but it doesn't matter - this is worth missing your date for.
Pizzeria Vetri is now open at 2221 14th Street NW.
I should get a new watch.
Andrew Marder is a writer living in Hyattsville, MD. He enjoys playing with his son, having dinner with his wife, and sitting quietly with good friends. When he’s not awake, he’s asleep.