Iâ€™ve been in New York City for the past few days for Daddy Salmonâ€™s joint birthday party with his uncle and my grandma. (This year they are turning 60, 70 and 80, respectively.) When Iâ€™m in NYC I always stay with one of my many sets of relatives and dine at one of their homes. So, even though itâ€™s one of the culinary capitals of the world, I almost never get the chance to try them. On this trip, I decided to make the effort to get out more. Armed with a list of suggestions from a friend, I made a lunch reservation at Otto, celebrity chef Mario Bataliâ€™s new enoteca and pizzeria. And yes, it fits my Mango Lassie price guide!
I went with Daddy Salmon, Mango Mama, Flava Flav and Daddy Salmonâ€™s second cousin Maple Syrup. We wanted to try as many antipasti as we could, but it was difficult for us to get past the awesome selection of vegetable choices. (Cheeses and meats will have to wait until next time.) Eggplant Caponatina was rich with excellent spicing. Summer squash with delicious, crumbly fresh pecorino was enhanced with lemony zest. Roasted beets and saba were sweet and earthy. I also loved the three varieties of house-cured olives. The Tuscan lentils were the only thing item that was a little bland, but for $4 apiece, I canâ€™t complain. We also tried a simply-dressed, pretty little salad of cucumber, fennel fronds and radishes. Finally there was a fish dishâ€”kingfish “in Soar”â€” composed of large chunks of the meaty fish with a sweet sauce and sautÃ©ed onions. Delicious! I could have eaten only antipasti along with a few sips of our delightful bottle of Kerner Abbazia di novacella and walked away happy.
But there was still the pizza course. Pizzas here are made in the Roman style with thin crusts and without an excess of cheese or other toppings. We tried two kinds. One was topped with a stunning combination of mozzarella di bufala, artichokes, roasted peppers, tomatoes, fresh chilies and basil leaves. It was creamy and flavorful with just the right zing. Our second pizzaâ€” made with tomato, fennel, bottarga (monkfish roe), pecorino and mozzarellaâ€” sounded more interesting that it actually was. The bottarga was spread into strips across the pie, but it wasnâ€™t as salty and pungent as I had hoped it would be. I ended up tasting tomato and fennel, but not enough of the other flavors.
We were getting pretty full by this point, but the desserts sounded too interesting to pass up. Plus, Otto makes its own gelato. Ever the chocolate lover, Daddy Salmon ordered a scoop of coffee cacao crunch gelato served inside a brioche bun. We also tried a ricotta gelato atop lemon curd with a tomato jam, pignoli-rosemary brittle and candied lemon peel. Being the family gelato connoisseur Flava selected three that sounded original and interesting: olive oil, sweet corn and mascarpone. Mango Mama was turned off by most of the desserts, but she liked Daddy Salmonâ€™s more traditional selection. I actually enjoyed all of the gelato selections, but I think I could get tired of sweet corn after a time. It really tastes like corn! Certain elements of the ricotta dish, including the tomato and pistachio brittle were also a little unappealing, but Iâ€™m glad I tried them.
Otto was a huge success. It just goes to show you that five people can dine well at the New York restaurant of a celebrity chef, while still keeping budget in mind.
One Fifth Ave.
New York, NY 10003