I have been going to Mario Batali’s cheapest restaurant, Otto, ever since I moved into the city after college. Whoever I take along ends up becoming a fan of this large, loud, warm, affordable and delicious restaurant. I’ve had a few birthday dinners here. In fact, I would probably have my birthday here every year if I didn’t have to worry about my guests getting bored.
Otto is great for large parties and has a very extensive wine list. In fact, their wine list is much longer than their food menu. If you’re a wine and pizza lover, then I highly recommend this restaurant. Since this restaurant is hugely popular, I recommend making reservations if you don’t want to wait 1.5 hours for a table for two. When you first enter the restaurant, you are in the enoteca area of the restaurant. If you are there during the weekend, I guarantee it will be extremely loud due to the number of people in the restaurant. I would not recommend going on a first date at Otto as you’ll most definitely have trouble hearing your date. After getting over the fact just how busy and loud the restaurant is, you’ll see the large train schedule which will have Italian cities listed and a time. Whether you make a reservation or not, you will be handed a train ticket when checking in with the hostess. When your train ticket’s city shows up on the train schedule, then it’s time for you to be seated. I find the train schedule really cute and reminds me of Italy.
If you end up having a long wait, I suggest getting getting a table in the bar area. Order a couple glasses of wine and maybe a cheese platter. I just want to tell all my readers that my absolute favorite cheese at Otto is Taleggio. It’s a soft and spreadable cheese, which goes perfectly with the very crusty bread. Otto also has great antipasti and I highly recommend the Cauliflower “alla Siciliana”. I don’t even know how to describe it other than being delicious.
Once you are finally seated, you will be handed a short menu which lists their everyday pizzas and pastas as well as their specials. My favorite standby pizzas at Otto are the prosciutto arugula and the pane frattau. I only heard about the pane frattau after watching Mario Batali and Michael Stipe on the Iconoclast series on the Sundance Channel a few years ago. Apparently the pane frattau is Michael Stipe’s favorite pizza! After seeing how delicious the pizza looked, my friends and I ordered it and it was truly amazing. It has a perfectly cooked egg, which I’m guessing is placed on the pizza after it’s cooked in the oven, pecorino cheese and tomato sauce. The pizza itself is really simple and delicate. The yolk is a bit gooey so it mixes into the pizza which makes it just perfect. I normally am not a fan of yolky eggs, but I make an exception here. If you’ve never had an egg on a pizza, I really think you should try it at Otto if you get the chance.
Another reason why I like Otto so much is that the menu is so moderately priced. Pizzas max out at $15. The pastas at $10. I admit that I can remember ordering pasta just once at Otto. I ended up ordering the pasta special of the day which had fettucine, summer corn, guanciale and tomato water. It was delicious. If this pasta is ever the special of the day, please get it. By the time it’s dessert time, I’m usually full with pizza and wine, so I end up getting gelato or sorbet. There are many fans of Otto’s famous olive oil gelato, but I am not one of them. I just don’t like salty and sweet mixed together in anything. Also, I feel like it doesn’t taste like olive oil. If you’re curious, then you should definitely try the olive oil gelato to see for yourself. After writing this post, I’ve decided it’s time for yet another trip to my trusty Otto.