January 31, 2009

Otto - How To Stay Trendy During A Recession

OttoOtto - While Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich standby Otto has always been great...In tough economic times like these, I tend to appreciate its true value proposition even more.

And given the crowds on a recent Saturday night, I'm not the only one trying to save a little more these days. My boyfriend and I arrived at 5:45pm thinking we were early and sure to beat the crowds...

Little did we know that "beating" the crowds is not possible at Otto on a Saturday night.

We were given our ticket and told the wait would be 45 minutes! Resigned, we joined fellow diners in the packed bar area to settle in for the wait.

As we looked around I was continually surprised by the mixed crowd at Otto - on one hand you have the young, trendy 20-30 something former investment bankers and their girlfriends who have been forced to trade down from Babbo to Otto...

While at the same time you are just as likely see 3 generations of families bouncing babies on the tables at the bar...(and changing diapers in the already tiny 2 stall bathroom).

Looking around, we decided it would be more fun to just have our dinner at the bar - I usually love eating at the bar as I find it to be a more social experience. After spending 10 minutes hovering and stalking a twosome at the end of the bar we realized there was a separate wait for the bar.

Big Tip: If you are a deuce and want a shorter wait than the dining room (which I think seems more appropriate for a family affair) - dine at the bar...BUT make sure you tell the bartender you would like a seat.

Otherwise you could be like the older couple stalking our table and wait forever...only to be scolded by the bartender for not telling him you wanted a seat...not fun.

As for the grub - A large variety of antipasti for $4 bucks a pop - a variety of veggies from "Cauliflower alla Siciliana" to "Brussel Sprouts con Vin Cotto" whets your appetite.

Be sure to try the Bruschetta of the day - large pieces of bread smothered with the vegetable of the day - ours was delicious "lillies" sauteed with a spicy peppery finish that gave it just the right amount of heat.

Pizzas and Pastas range from $9 to $14, and just one pizza and one pasta was enough to fill the two of us.

For pasta I am always a fan of Spaghetti alla Carbonara, creamy with pancetta, pepper, egg - thick, served al dente.

Another good choice is the Rigatoni Con Stracotto - pork shoulder (mmmmm) + tomato and basil.

As for pizza I am always partial to the classics like Margherita D.O.P - tomato, bufala mozzarella and basil or the Pepperoni - tomato, spicy salami, cacio and mozzarella. The pizzas are thin and crispy - perfect as an entree or to share as an appetizer depending on how hungry you are.

Finish the meal off with one of the unique desserts. A must try for the adventurous - Olive Oil Copetta - olive oil gelato, concord grape sorbet, candied clementines, lime curd and fennel brittle. I know it sounds weird and frankly unappealing - but the mixture of sweet, tart and tangy is certainly unique. It is worth a try - you may love it or you may hate it...but either way aren't you curious?

Another favorite is the Tangerine Parfait - this flavor combination of coconut creme, tangerine sorbet, candied pineapples, passion fruit granita and a flicker of pomegranate is a sure thing. Sweet and refreshingly crisp.

Oh- and I'm not a big drinker, but the wine list is amazingly long with plenty of choices by the glass - plus the glasses are served with mini carafes - more like 2 glasses per selection.

I along with most other ladies love the classic Blood Orange Bellini - While it's no Cipriani Bellini, at $8 bucks it's one of the most reasonable bellinis in town.

Until times get better, fat chance finding me at Babbo or Del Posto.

I'll be sitting right here at the bar at Otto.
(picture from NY Mag)

Otto Enoteca Pizzeria
1 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10011

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