My one rule for eating out at restaurants is never order pasta. It’s cheap, produces the biggest profit margin for the establishment, and 95% of the time I can make something equally as diesel at home. However, at Otto Enoteca Pizzeria in New York City, I made an exception.
Mario Batali is the best ambassador of Italian cuisine we have in the States. While he rose to fame on the Food Network, he never compromised his rustic food or talked down to his audience. Batali’s food is authentic and intelligent, Godfather old-school Italian; not the spaghetti, meatballs and marinara Sopranos Italian that this country is brainwashed with. Otto is his most casual restaurant located in the West Village of Manhattan, but while the menu is strictly pasta, pizza, charcuterie and antipasti, don’t be fooled by the simplicity.
The food is classic. No frills, no gimmicks, just solid. Homemade pastas, slow simmered sauces and respect for just a few ingredients is all that is necessary. Sure, there’s pepperoni or margherita pizza or carbonara or puttanesca pasta but it will probably be the closest thing to true Italian food you’ll ever taste. And if it isn’t, go enjoy your strip mall red sauce. I know you can’t get enough of those bread sticks!
The best part–the prices. No pizza is over $14 and pasta tops out around $9. Throw in a cheese sampler appetizer (with savory dipping sauces) and you and a date can have a night out for under $40. They fuck you on the wine list though. But that’s not a bad thing if you’re a sommelier. The wine selection is endless and expensive and if you’re like me, you’ll just order the second cheapest white wine under the category that sounds like what your parents drink.
But that seems to be the point of Otto. You come, you snack on olives, cheese, cured meats, share a pizza or pasta dish, order a bottle of wine and enjoy your company and atmosphere for as long as you wish. It’s casual, yet sophisticated, a concept that our countries diners rarely understand. There really no question why Otto is massively successful. Familiar food, done right with Mario’s name on it in a great location. Certainly worth the trip, if you can get a reservation.