While I don't go out to eat Italian food that often, I've been making a concerted effort to do it right when I do. This past year I've managed to hit Osteria and Amis, two restaurants from Marc Vetri, Philadelphia's most celebrated Italian restaurant maestro. Most recently, I visited Le Virtu, an Italian restaurant on Passyunk Ave. featuring dishes from the Abruzzi region of Italy. Le Virtu often gets mentioned alongside Vetri restaurants as an example of Philly's finest in Italian cuisine.
All three restaurants — Osteria, Amis, and Le Virtu — were fabulous, but my preference is Le Virtu, despite the fact that Le Virtu has the most limited menu for a vegetarian. Osteria is too large and bustling. Amis is cozy, but the service (similar to Osteria's) is so hawk-eyed and professional that it's hard to relax when you know the second you take your last bite of a dish, a server will swoop in and rearrange your tablescape.
Le Virtu has the coziness you've come to expect from Philly's cramped architecture (although, Le Virtu does have a large, outdoor, off-street seating area when the weather is fair), and a relaxed service that allows for breathing time between courses. The seating at Le Virtu is also well spaced, so you don't have to hear your neighbor's conversation. Le Virtu is comfortable.A basket of chewy, rustic bread is presented to the table alongside a large plate of olive oil for dipping.