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Pizzeria Vetri owners Marc Vetri and Jeff Benjamin and have had their eye on D.C. for a while. And it didn’t hurt that fellow Philadelphia restaurateur Stephen Starr has been killing it on 14th Street with Le Diplomate.
“Stephen said, ‘Listen guys, this is a great place for you to get to in less than a day. You can go there for a weekend. You can manage a geographically different place for yourself that’s not too far off,’” Benjamin says of part of the appeal. Plus, he says, Washingtonians “embrace the food culture really well here.”
And so their Neapolitan-style pizza restaurant will open its fourth location Monday at the corner of 14th Street and Florida Avenue NW. Vetri Family restaurants have been in expansion mode since they were acquired by Urban Outfitters last fall.
Vetri says they’re the “luckiest guys in the world” to have the partnership with the purveyor of ripped jeans and cassette tapes. “There’s not a lot of larger organizations that still have a small business mindset,” he says. Benjamin adds that Urban Outfitters has helped on the business and marketing end without interfering with the food.
The menu of D.C.’s Pizzeria Vetri will be pretty similar to that of its counterparts in Philly and Austin, Texas. The pizzas are all about simplicity with no more than a topping or two beyond the sauce and cheese. Vetri argues that the simplest food can actually be the hardest to execute: “When all you have is the bread and the sauce and then some mozzarella, you’ve got three things. If one of those things is off, it’s one-third less good. So everything has to be perfect. There’s no room for error… There’s nothing to hide behind.”
And as many outsider restaurants before it, Pizzeria Vetri is paying homage to the area by sticking crab on the menu. In this case, it’s a Maryland blue crab pizza with mozzarella, peppers, and herbs.
Another local nod is a miso-honey gelato flavor developed by Daikaya and Bantam King chef Katsuya Fukushima in collaboration with Philadelphia-based gelato maker Capogiro. Vetri says he met Fukushima more than a decade ago when the D.C. chef was still working at Minibar. Other desserts include a marshmallow-topped Nutella pizza and cannoli.
Pizzeria Vetri may not be the last restaurant D.C. sees from the Vetri Family group.
“What we do know is there will be more. It’s just a question of how fast,” Benjamin says. “If this nails it, and hey, we love the city, it’s really doing well, we’ll open another one quicker here. If it takes some time to ramp up, Urban [Outfitters] is patient.”
“He’s so political,” Vetri says. “I don’t give a fuck what we do. I just want to have fun.”
Pizzeria Vetri, 2221 14th St. NW, (202) 794-9057, pizzeriavetri.com