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Otto Enoteca Pizzeria review

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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!

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  1. 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

      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

        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

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

          1. re: LVI

            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. 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

          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. 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

            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. 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

              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

                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

                  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

                    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

                      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

                        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.

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