Two years after it opened in a revived Moorestown Mall, Vetri's fine-dining restaurant Osteria will close by the end of the year, and will be replaced by the second location of Catelli Duo, a more casual South Jersey restaurant/wine bar.
The shuffle, confirmed Wednesday by mall owner Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust and owners of both restaurants, could be a win for all parties.
The transition, whose date is believed to be sometime in November, is expected to be achieved without a shutdown.
For Catelli Duo, which opened in September 2012 at the PREIT-owned Voorhees Town Center, the move signals an expansion into another recently revitalized mall. (On Tuesday, PREIT coincidentally announced the sale of Voorhees Town Center, which it had redeveloped from Echelon Mall.)
The deal is a plus for PREIT because Catelli Duo will become a larger tenant. It will lease about 3,600 square feet next door to Osteria to develop into private dining.
And for Vetri, the deal allows a swift, graceful exit from a business situation that co-owner Marc Vetri described as "a bit of a challenge."
Since the Moorestown Osteria idea came to fruition several years ago, Vetri and his partners - like many restaurateurs everywhere - have shifted their focus from fine dining to more casual brands, such as the trattoria Amis, which has a location on track for the proposed Devon Yard development on the Main Line, and especially for Pizzeria Vetri, which will venture to Austin, Texas, in November for its third location. A deal for a fourth Pizzeria Vetri is pending in Washington, D.C.
Catelli Duo's $41-per-person dinner check average (including alcohol) is based on a menu that offers entree-size and half-portions intended for sharing. That tab is slightly more than half of an average meal at Osteria.
In an interview, Vetri said he and partners Jeff Benjamin, Jeff Michaud, and Brad Spence did not regret their decision "at all" to open in 2013 in the mall, where they joined a new roster of restaurants operating under Moorestown Township's first liquor licenses.
Among the recent tenants are Jose Garces' Distrito and the chains Firebirds Wood Fired Grill, Harvest Wine Bar, and, in December, Yard House, a beer-focused bar.
Osteria, the poshest of the mall's new restaurants, was the first to open and was a key selling point in PREIT's pitch to the township to allow sales of alcohol.
In a statement in response to Philly.com's questions, PREIT CEO Joseph F. Coradino said the Vetri group's "pioneering vision acted as a catalyst for reimagining Moorestown Mall." The mall recently opened a row of boutiques to complement the restaurant lineup.
"We have met a lot of awesome people over there," Vetri said. "We had to figure out how to make things work, and it took us a little longer than we thought. But we figured it out and now it's a solid-running restaurant. It just takes a little bit too much time away from what we do [at the more casual restaurants in Philadelphia], and we want to focus there."
Vetri characterized the relationship with PREIT as solid. "We've gotten to know them, and we've learned a lot from them," he said.
The Vetri orbit includes the flagship Vetri ristorante on Spruce Street, Osteria and Alla Spina in Spring Garden, Amis in Washington Square West, Lo Spiedo at the Navy Yard, and Pizzeria Vetri locations on Callowhill Street near the Barnes museum and on Chancellor Street in Rittenhouse.
Vetri said his Moorestown employees would be offered jobs with Catelli Duo, or could remain with Vetri.
Catelli Duo is a spin-off of the fancier, pricier Catelli Ristorante, which operated from 1994 to 2011 at the Main Street Complex in Voorhees. Owner Robert Dunn Sr. is preparing for more Catelli Duo locations both regionally and nationally.