When Vetri switched exclusively to tasting menus last year, its more accessible sibling, Osteria, gained an even greater focus.
This larger and more casual trattoria space had already earned a major following in the hands of partner and chef Jeff Michaud, 34, himself a James Beard award winner. It has my nod as the city's second-best Italian (after Vetri itself, where he was a former chef). And in the five years since it opened, it has come to embody the rustic spirit that predominated when Vetri first opened, from the marvelous roasted-vegetable antipasto, to the gossamer sliced prosciutto, soulfully braised rabbit, spit-roasted suckling pig, inventive seasonal pastas, and wood-fired pizzas that set the standard for our current pizza craze.
With more choices to customize a meal, it's no wonder many longtime Vetri devotees now name Osteria as their favorite. It may very well be the single best all-purpose restaurant in the city, perfect for a family event, date night, or power lunch, with a top-notch wine list to sate any Italian-vino nerd.
That one-space-fits-all virtue, though, is a liability when it comes time to shift a dinner into rarefied four-bell finesse. Michaud has it in him, but his vast and bustling restaurant wasn't quite built with that gear in mind.