I don’t know how we got on the topic, but when Jess and Jeannette and I were having dinner at Volo when they were visiting me in Chicago, we started talking about Mario Batali‘s restaurant OTTO. And more specifically, the olive oil gelato. Sold! On this trip to New York I decided I had to go to OTTO. The funny thing is that I’d never been there before and everyone who met us there was like “Yeh, this place is great, we go here all the time.” I guess I chose a winner! Well, let’s wait til after the food to decide.
While we were waiting for everyone to get to OTTO, we sat in the front area, the enoteca. This is the wine bar and it’s supposed to be reminiscent of an Italian train station. It has long rows of tables that are maybe supposed to remind you of benches? And behind the bar there’s a big clock. In the back, where you check in, there’s a big board. After talking to the host/hostess, you’re given a ticket with a train name on it. When that train departs, the name of the train flips up on the board, you go to the host stand and your party is then seated. In the enoteca I had a really fabulous white wine that I, of course, do not remember the name of because I didn’t note it. I told the server there that I wanted something not too sweet and not too dry and he brought over a couple he thought I’d like. I tasted each and picked the one I liked best. I thought that was cool. Then I wasn’t guessing what I’d like and having to pay to find out I didn’t like it. Also, in the enoteca they serve wine by the bottle or the quartino, which is about a 1/3 bottle. So, you get a small carafe along with your glass. I was joking that it was like when you get a homemade shake somewhere and they give you the extras in the metal cup on the side. So, I liked the wine bar very much.
For dinner we all decided to order family-style and share. I put in requests for 1 or 2 things but mostly let the people who had been there a bunch of times before do the ordering. I don’t know everything we ordered, but this is what I remember as highlights:
- A meat plate with Prosciutto, Coppa, Lardo, Testa, Salumi
- A cheese plate with at least 6 cheeses on it
- Olives (Gaeta, Sicilian, Alfonso)
- Eggplant Caponatina
- Asparagus & Pecorino
- Funghi & Taleggio Pizza
- Margherita D.O.C. Pizza (Tomato, Bufala Mozzarella, Basil)
- Napoletana (Tomato, Anchovy, Capers, Olives)
- Pepperoni Pizza (Tomato, Spicy Salami, Cacio, Mozarella)
- Pizza del Giorno (the Pizza of the Day was Ramps)
- Linguine con le Cozze (mussels, saffron, marjoram)
- A penne pasta that I remember being good, but can’t remember which it was!
I know there was more, but I can’t remember what it was. It seems like we ordered tons of food, but there were 10 people, so it was just enough to go around. I like ordering lots of things and sharing. Then you get to try all different dishes. And it’s fun! And all of the food was really well prepared and tasty.
Two things before I move on to dessert. 1. I didn’t realize that “Testa” on the meat tray was pretty much head cheese. Wikipedia’s entry for Head Cheese says that in Genoa, Italy “A similar preparation goes by the moniker testa in cassetta, literally ‘head in a box’.” I don’t know if I had that meat in particular… I knew I picked a few off the tray… but if I did, it was delicious. 2. This was the first time I tried an anchovy. How was it? Salty & fishy.
For dessert, everyone got gelato. How could you not? I was dying to try the olive oil gelato so I got the Olive Oil Copetta (cup). It had olive oil gelato, rosemary brittle, candies kumquats, olive oil and Maldon sea salt. It was such a delicious mix of savory and sweet. Really good. And kind of buttery on the tongue. We all ordered different gelatos and passed them around. The gelato was so good. Actually, though, I think Tien said the pistachio was not that great. I remember everyone loving the milk chocolate chip one.
After dinner we went back to the enoteca for some more drinks. I was so stuffed! I could barely even drink one more glass of wine before calling it a night. What a great time though. I think getting together with friends and sharing food is one of my most favorite things. OTTO was fabulous. I’d go back in a heartbeat.