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Otto Enoteca Pizzeria review

l
LVI Aug 21, 2006 02:10 PM

I will start this by telling you that I am biased: I am one of few people who think that the empire that Mario Batali is one of the most impressive but that his restaurants, especially Babbo are pedestrian and so over-rated. I had looked forward going to Otto Enoteca for quite a while given that 2 people whose opinions I respect, both raved about the place. When I walked in I was thoroughly impressed with the bar area and the wine list. WOW! I could not get over the quality of the all (I think all) Italian wine list in not only its depth but also for the value. Most other places gouge your eyeballs out with their wine prices but this list seems to contradict that practice. he place was about 15-20% full. The room is minimalist nice but the noise was overwhelming later when the place filled up. We had one of the house cured sausages, the special heirloom beets and 5 different pizzas. To start, the $9 ($9 on the menu and $10 when the bill came. Sure $1 isn't much but at the end of the day, this place probably gets away with that and by the amount of tables that were ordering the meats and as full as the room gets, my guess is that it adds up!)Soppersata was, like the room, minimalist on the plate. There were 6 paper thin slices that resembled Salumi more than Soppersata. When I asked the waiter if in fact an order of Salumi was mistakenly dropped off to our table he insured us that this was their style of Soppersata. Drizzled with olive oil (when was the last time a Soppersata you ate needed any more fat???) it was bland and mushy at best. Again, it resembled Salumi more in both taste and presentation. Beets were just that...roasted beets that, if you like beets (I do), were good. Not worth the $10 price tag for a ramekin sized bowl. But I was not there for the apps, but rather the pizzas themselves. After all the place is a Pizzeria, right? 1st of all, we found each and every pie to be ok, and nothing more. The Lardo, which our waiter went on and on about could not have more mundane. Essentially it was dough (bland and boring might I add) with super thin slices of lardo (think of the fat that surrounds prosciutto) with little studs of rosemary. BORING!!! The others were the special meatball, fennel and prosciutto, anchovy, and the finale, clam and garlic. Now this one confounds me. I am a HUGE fan of clam pizza. To me the clam pizza @ Pepe's New Haven is about as good as it gets. I was soooo looking forward to this pizza, until it arrived. WHY ON EARTH would you pile the clams in a heap in the middle of the pizza WITH THEIR SHELLS ON???? Sorry, this place is yet another example, IMO, of The Emperor has no clothes!!! Go for a drink in the beautiful bar and maybe a bottle of wine, but as for its namesake Pizzeria, skip it for your favorite local corner joint selling slices!

  1. k
    Kanger Aug 21, 2006 03:08 PM

    I agree with you in some respects--Lupa is one of my absolute favorites, but the food at Otto pales in comparison. I had the same reaction to the ludicrous clam pizza, and personally found all their pies to be oversalted (maybe I was just there on a bad night). I did have good wine and gelato, but the food was disappointing.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Kanger
      Porthos Aug 22, 2006 03:09 AM

      I'll defend the clam pizza. Serving the clams with the shells does make it harder to eat but the clams have more flavor that way because they're fresh. You can taste the brine on them as they open and the juices just dribble into the pizza. Most clam pies, served the way they are, are canned clams. Yeah, they're easier to eat but it's been processed and it's out of a can. It's like serving a whole fish with head and bones on. It take more work but it usually means its fresher.

      I much prefer the calm pizza at Otto to other renditions. It's like linguine with clams but on a pizza.

      1. re: Porthos
        l
        LVI Aug 22, 2006 11:09 AM

        You need to go to a place that actually shucks their clams, ie Lombardi's in NYC and Pepe's in New Haven CT. I will agree that if you use anything but fresh clams it will be far inferior. Also, loving to cook as much as I do, I will almost guarantee you that those clams are cooked in a separate pot. The clam juice that would run off of these clams would make the pizza a soggy mess. The clams on our pizza were by no means cook on top of the pizza.

        1. re: LVI
          k
          kenito799 Aug 22, 2006 01:59 PM

          I second the rec for real clam pizza in New Haven...worth a trip there.

          1. re: LVI
            Porthos Aug 23, 2006 03:14 AM

            I love Lombardi's. But I love their tomato sauced pies. Their clam pie was hard and not at all impressive. If you bake the calms already shucked, the meat gets too much exposure to direct heat and toughens up. Another reason why cooking it in the shell isn't a bad idea. It's been a while since I had the clam pie but I thought it was baked on the pie and clues such as indentations in the crust suggested as such. Hopefully someone who knows or works there will speak up.

      2. e
        erikka Aug 21, 2006 03:32 PM

        Loved the gelato, hated the pizza. Boring would be the perfect word to describe them. Even the lardo was yawn-worthy.

        1 Reply
        1. re: erikka
          e
          erikka Aug 23, 2006 03:25 PM

          Oh, forgot to mention that I used to work at a restaurant that formerly occupied the space (Clementines)--allegedly that part of One Fifth Av. is cursed and has been very unlucky for those in the restaurant industry. If it was anyone but Batali behind that place I bet it'd be closed already...

        2. b
          bickel Aug 21, 2006 03:34 PM

          While I admit that certain of the pizzas at Otto are disappointing I think it's worth another chance.

          There is some consensus that Otto distinguishes itself with things other than pizza. I know it's a pizzeria and that should really be its strong suit but much of what Otto offers is excellent and hard to find at a similar price. Few would argue that Otto has the best pizza in NY.

          However, Otto distinguishes itself with its wine list, its vegetable and fish antipasti and its cheese. The carbonara is also very good. The best thing at Otto is the gelato, which I would recommend making a separate trip for.

          Your disappointment may have been aggravated further because you seem to think that salumi means salami thus your consternation when your sopressata turned out to be "salumi." Salumi is not "salami" (although salami is salumi). Salumi refers generally to the category of cured meats, not a specfic type of cured meat (salumi is like "charcuterie").

          Sorry to be so pedantic.

          Salumi also happens to be the name of Mario's father's shop in Seattle.

          1 Reply
          1. re: bickel
            l
            LVI Aug 21, 2006 05:19 PM

            Agreed on your Salumi is not salami. When we ordered the Sopressa and were told by the waiter it is "their" version of sopressata, we all agreed to try given that we all love sopressata. Yet Sopressa resembles salami much more than sopressata. We were disappointed. And why are the prices on the menu less than what is being charged? It all adds up, from misinformation to charging more than what is stated on the menu. Give credit where it is due, which I did above, the place has a GREAT bar area and the wine list is UNREAL. But the name is what differentiates itself by the moniker "Pizzeria" and therefore leaves itself open to comparisons to other pizzerias. The pizza was, as I said above, pedestrian, at best. And quite honsetly, there really isn't all that much that is so different on their menu that you can't find in other restaurants in the city.

          2. Bob Martinez Aug 21, 2006 06:26 PM

            I agree with you on the pizzas - they are mediocre at best. I have a better opinion of the meat platters than you but what really impressed me on a recent visit were the pastas. My spaghetti alla gricia with guanciale, onion, and black pepper was excellent. Even better was my GF's spaghetti all carbonara with pancetta, scallions, black pepper an egg - it was terriffic in every way.

            Give them a try if you go back.

            6 Replies
            1. re: Bob Martinez
              s
              shortstop Aug 22, 2006 02:58 AM

              Having read many positive reviews here on the pastas at Otto, I had high hopes for my visit. However, on my one visit with my family, two of the three pastas ordered at our table were inedible. The carbonara was too peppery (and Lupa's carbonara is my favorite in the city) and the penne with eggplant was so al dente as to be uncooked in the middle when you bit into it. When we mentioned to our server that the carbonara had too much pepper, she said that is how the chef likes it. We did not even discuss the overly al dente pasta, which they had forgotten to bring with the rest of the entrees, as by that point in the meal we had had too many service issues and were ready to be out of there.

              I love Lupa and Babbo and have had delicious meals at Del Posto & Esca. Therefore, I went to Otto expecting to like it, but unfortunately it was one of the worst meals I've had in recent memory, not only the food but the service. It was so bad as to be humorous, and on the plus side has become a funny family memory.

              1. re: shortstop
                Bob Martinez Aug 22, 2006 11:31 AM

                One person's "too peppery/too al dente" pasta is another person's "just right." I'm not suggesting that you should like it - things like that are a matter of personal taste. People reading along learn where along the taste spectrum a restaurant comes down and can decide whether that style of cooking appeals to their individual tastes.

                1. re: Bob Martinez
                  s
                  shortstop Aug 23, 2006 02:42 PM

                  You are right with respect to personal taste, however there is a difference between personal taste and poor preparation, and I've dined out enough and worked in both the front and back of the house to know the difference between the two. Neither of these dishes were prepared properly. I LOVE carbonara, most recipes for which call for a generous amount of pepper, but the amount of pepper in this dish was off the charts as to overwhelm any other flavors. And I was being generous when I said the eggplant pasta was “al dente,” it was literally uncooked in the middle.

                  Even before my visit to Otto, I was amazed by the staunchness of the Otto defenders here, and now after my meal there, even more so

                  1. re: shortstop
                    Bob Martinez Aug 23, 2006 03:05 PM

                    Nobody has had worse things to say about Otto's pizza than me. I've ripped them both here and on other boards.

                    As for the carbonara, both my GF and I loved it. Granted - we both have a higher tolerance for pepper than some. We both love intensely spiced Thai food, although the level of spicing in the carbonara is certainly below that.

                    I guess my point is that Otto is not routinely delivering inedible pasta that is universally rejected by diners. They are delivering something that appeals to some and not others.

                    1. re: shortstop
                      l
                      LVI Aug 23, 2006 03:14 PM

                      Funny you mention the pepper. In our party were 3 young girls. One of them ordered the carbonara. When the dish came she told us it tasted funny and didn't like the "spicy" flavor. We all dismissed as a child not wanting to eat. Well, she was 100% correct. The amount of black pepper was OVERWHELMING and it tasted so commercial. I didn't want to comment on pastas as I figured that people would think I was just being overly critical.

                      1. re: shortstop
                        l
                        Lucia Aug 27, 2006 05:46 AM

                        I just paid another visit to Otto tonight and had the carbonara. I'm not a fan of spicy and I rarely have pepper on my food, but I didn't taste a lot of pepper on this dish AT ALL. I also thought the pasta was perfectly cooked.

                2. f
                  fara Aug 22, 2006 01:20 AM

                  The front room is nice, but I think the station thing is annoying and kitschy. I love Babbo however.
                  If you want real Italian pizza, try Una Pizza Napoletana. Just don't bring the attitude, the chef might throw you out.

                  1. jenniebnyc Aug 23, 2006 12:52 AM

                    I like their pizza, but the pasta is way too al dente. I give it a try each time I go and still rock hard in the center. Fellow foodies have said the same.

                    Whatever happened to the customer is always right...I think is this instance, they should really re-think their boil time. The pastas are so cheap it would be great if they were edible.

                    1. k
                      kevin Aug 23, 2006 03:37 AM

                      otto has great olive oil gelato and there other gelato is not too shabby either.

                      give it a try. that's where it's at.

                      1. s
                        shratter Aug 23, 2006 03:57 AM

                        i agree - the pizza is mediocre. but i ordered two salads, the escarole & the sformata (or some such thing - an egg custard) that were THE best salads i've ever eaten because they were perfectly dressed - a feat not often mastered. and the gelato was to die for.

                        my favorite italian pizza is pala (on allen & houston) - it's amazing and the cust is leagues better than otto (you can watch the dough rise right in front of your eyes).

                        1. l
                          Lucia Aug 27, 2006 05:48 AM

                          My boyfriend and I went to Otto tonight and had a very good meal at a very reasonable price. We had two apps, two entrees, and two desserts. We started with the summer squash and percorino and the calamari, rice beans (which look like pine nuts), and pickled peppers, both served cold in small bowls. The squash was unsurprising, but a nice summer dish. I liked the calamari, which was not rubbery at all.

                          We split a pasta (carbonara) and a pizza (funghi and taleggio). The pasta was perfectly cooked. I expected there to be an egg on top, but the egg had been mixed into a light, but flavorful sauce with a generous helping of pancetta thrown in. The mushroom topping of the pizza was rich and flavorful, almost completely overpowering the taste of the taleggio. Unfortunately, the pizza crust was slightly charred and could had more chew.

                          We finished with some gelato. I chose my own mix of gelato--two scoops of olive oil and one of corn. The corn was wonderful, but was completely outshown by the olive oil, which is easily the best frozen dessert I've ever had. My boyfriend had the olive oil coppetta. He wished that he had ordered what I had since the other ingredients of the coppetta covered up the taste of the olive oil. Also my gelato ($7) was almost twice as large as his ($9).

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