Sunday, January 25, 2009

Carb Loading, II

I'm old enough to remember when the space on 8th Street and 5th Avenue was a swanky bar called Clementine; they probably served me one of my first underage New York beverages.  I'm also old enough to remember a time before Mario Batali and a time before everyone south of the Hudson and east of Queens knew what Otto was and wanted to eat there on a Saturday night.  

That reality no longer exists, which means if you choose to go out to dinner in the west village on a Saturday night you are, consequently, choosing to dine with the crowd that the industry affectionately terms "bridge and tunnel," the imports from, well, outside of the City.  I'll say no more. 

Last night was certainly an exercise in B and T lovin'.  We waited an hour and fifteen minutes for our table, but at Otto, that's considered a short wait.  In the meantime, I had my one allotted alcoholic beverage (the definite downside to racing on Sunday mornings), a blood orange bellini.  We ordered a cheese plate and a meat plate to munch on while we waited.  Meats included bresaola, proscuitto, sopressata, coppa, and something that resembled headcheese, to which I have an insurmountable aversion.  Cheeses included Coach Farms triple cream goat (Batali keeps it in the family; his wife is the heir to the Coach fortune, known for their bags and domestic goat cheese), a parmesan, a mild ricotta, a gorgonzola dolce, and a fifth cheese that was never identified.  Otto serves their cheese plate with some of my favorite goodies: black truffle honey, brandied cherries, spicy sweet apricots.

When we did sit, food was fast and furious.  Spaghetti carbonara was just as decadent and evil as its meant to be.  A dish of penne, mascarpone, tomatoes, and eggplant was simultaneously delicate and rich.  Rigatoni with ground sausage reminded me of a better-executed rigatoni dish at Batali's Lupa on Thompson, but nevermind.  The penne with butternut squash and... butter made up for it.  

Pizza's are Naples-style, which means small and crispy, just my style.  Margheritas came with patches of fresh mozzarella and wide, healthy basil leaves.  Pepperoni looked better than anything Ray's ever served.  The pieces are so small and light they go down a stitch too easily.  

But wait!  There's more!  By far Otto's greatest contribution to the culinary world is their heavenly olive oil gelato.  This stuff is amazing on its own, but this time I indulged in the olive oil coppetta, gelato topped with a fennel brittle, fresh blood orange, and lime curd.  The gelato is remarkably fruity and one of my favorite things about this vast and crazy island. 

The other desserts were good but a bit too sweet for my personal palate.  Caramel coppetta combined caramel gelato, brownies, whipped cream, and candied pecans.  The black and white offered up a mousse-like chocolate gelato with chocolate chips and whipped cream.  Like all good New York restaurants, Otto changes their desserts with the seasons.  Right now, you can find huckleberry and Meyer lemon gelato a la carte, as well as a brilliantly colored blood orange sorbet.  

I'd forgotten how much I'd missed this place.  I'll be heading back soon, though probably not on a Saturday. 

Otto Enoteca and Pizzeria
1 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10003

1 comment:

ramster said...

Good luck with your carbo *unloading* today!