Dish 51: Polpo Pizza at Osteria, 640 North Broad St, http://www.osteriaphilly.com
Dani and I went to Osteria tonight for dinner to catch up on weekend dirt—she just returned from Penn State, visiting Tracy, and I had four or five days worth of hijinks she hadn’t heard. When we arrived, a smiling hostess graciously led us to—the worst seats in the house. A deuce sandwiched so tightly between two other tables that I actually had to slide the table over until it was touching the four top next to us, to allow six inches to squeeze through to my seat. Which was pinned up against the divider separating the house from the kitchen. AKA, the entire waitstaff was hanging out right over our shoulders.
After a couple of seconds we became acclimated to sharing our conversation with our six new dinner companions and the staff hovering awkwardly behind us—what is privacy, anyway? We’re all friends here.—the waitress came over, and because she had to stand directly behind Dani, Station Server 2—oh, we were never introduced, not even by the check at the end of the night—seemed to relish in the unblinking eye-stranglehold that she had on me. When I wondered if a pizza could be half polpo and half Lombardo—just trying to be cost effective here—she shut me down unilaterally. SS2 told me very slowly and in very small words that the two pizzas were actually two different pizzas, and she leaned across the table to read the ingredients off my menu to tell me which was in each one, so I might be enlightened to the concept that red pepper flakes might never be isolated to one side of a pizza, or an egg might not be scooched over a smidge.
Understand, I have no problem buying two separate pizzas if you tell me that they have different sauce or crusts, or the size, cooking technique, or toppings prevent the combination of styles. That’s fine. I do have a problem with paying $17 for an individual pizza at a restaurant gorgeously furnished with gleaming dark wood and exposed brick when you allow waitstaff like that on the floor. Two other servers had to come help out at other points in the night when she simply forgot about us, and at no point between the time we were served and the time our plates were cleared did she check on how we liked the dishes.
I have been a waitress and a hostess and am fully aware of the difficulty of the job, particularly with a new restaurant and when you have just begun. But this is simply unacceptable for an establishment of such high caliber. Buddy the Elf and I share the same philosophy on people. There is almost no one that I don’t like, and it takes a lot to make my shit list. SS2 didn’t even have to try.
Furthermore, note that I haven’t even told you yet that the pizza was delicious, more than large enough for a hungry teenage boy, with charred octopus smoky, deep, and salty like thick-cut bacon, mozzarella that tasted like it was made this morning, and red pepper flakes that strengthened the tomato sauce to compete with and complement the robust octopus. And I still don’t feel good about having a dish that great, because after I stuffed my face, I had to get up, move the table over a second time, and squeeze my bony Irish ass past a very respectable looking woman’s face, because Marc Vetri had to cram in one more table. I’d rather they had declined to give us the reservation tonight, and had taken the extra time and space to pamper their customers and train the staff.