Vetri named as best Italian restaurant in U.S.

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Marc Vetri and Jeff Benjamin outside of Vetri, 1312 Spruce St., in a photo from 2002 or 2003. Note chefs (from left) Michael Solomonov (now at Zahav), Joey Baldino (No. 20 Zeppoli), Dionicio Jimenez (El Rey), and Justino Jimenez (Logan Square Pizza & Cocina).

Time Out - the listicle-heavy city entertainment guide - has named two local restaurants to its roster of the 20 best Italian restaurants in the United States.

At Number 1 is Vetri, Marc Vetri and Jeff Benjamin's boutique at 1312 Spruce St. The editors rave:

"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."

At Number 20 is Zeppoli, the Collingswood BYOB owned and operated by Vetri alumnus Joey Baldino:

"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."