Otto, I Wish I Could Give You an Eight

09Mar09

I really hate writing bad reviews. So this won’t be all that bad. I’ll skirt around the idea of the food having been overly salty and get straight to the point.

Facebook once told me, those who expect nothing never get disappointed. This might be the guiding quote when going to any trendy restaurant, because once you set your expectations so high, you’re more likely than not to be disappointed and focus on the flaws, rather than the qualities that brought you there in the first place. Because the restaurant has been reviewed, criticized and over-analyzed by both the paid and unpaid critics everywhere, and because you’re a self-righteous, egomanical human being, you’re craving to find that one subtle detail you can put your stamp on. What fun is there to confirm someone else’s opinion? Yup. That Frank Bruni was right. This Artic Char generously served with a lobster foam garnish IS exquisitely reminiscent of last year’s summer share in the Hamptons! No, it’s much more fun to out-criticize the New York Times food critic and state that rather, it’s very reminiscent of the foam that clings to the feet of dirty children in Santa Monica Pier. 

But this is spiriling into a really bad review. Which it isn’t, really.

I had my birthday dinner at Otto this year with my two Jess’s. Otto is one of Mario Batali’s several restaurants in the city and co-owned with Joe Bastianich, son of Lidia Bastianich. We walked towards the host to confirm our 7:30 dinner reservation in the enoteca, the wine bar in front of the restaurant. It’s the perfect bar to  “grab a drink(ssss)” with that friend you see once a month, meet your match.com (or JDate for you Jews and Asian women) soulmate, or have your obligatory after-work drink(ssss) with your co-workers. It’s a classy affair with a casual vibe, and as the website says reminiscent of an “Italian railway station.” It’s not reminiscent of a New York MTA station, that’s for sure. Lots of wine glass clinking and chatter about how we all wish it was Friday already and why he’s just not that into you. You get the idea.

After walking our way back, back to our table, our googly eyes ignored the menus on the table to stare at our dark & handsome waiter tell us the specials for the day. Yes, please. 

The menu is simple enough, divided into antipasti, pastas, and pizzas. The menu is written in Italianglish (Englitalian?), but you can generally deduce what most of the menu items are. 

We ordered 3 antipasti that came in small orange ramekins and were meant to be shared by the table. Each were good on their own and true to what you’d imagine you’d get when reading the item description on the menu. But eating all 3 at the same time, gave a new meaning to “wetting your palate.” Each antipasti was pretty salty and made me want to wash it down with water before taking another bite.

img_0153Over-exposed, under-qualified 

Because they’re served cold, I imagine they make the antipasti ahead of time and they sit in a kind of salty juice, perhaps for too long. The ricotta salata gives the rabe enough saltiness, but I felt like they had seasoned it with more salt. The octopus dish was fine, but again, paired with the other two, all I thought about was salt. The brussels sprouts (note the S in brussels…am I the only one that just noticed this?) were probably my favorite, cooked in a wine sauce with a bit of a vinegary finish. 

img_01551

(from left to right)- Spicy Rabe with Ricotta Salata, the Brusells Sprouts Con Vin Cotto,and the Octopus, Celery, Lovage (cousin of Celery)

Which begs the thought, I wonder if over-seasoning becomes more of a problem as chefs start advancing in their careers. I know my own need to put salt on all my foods has been slowly increasing over the years; imagine if you did it for a living. What a chef finds properly seasoned is probably no where near what you or I, as pedestrian foodyis, find appropriate. Just a thought. 

Oh. The wine list. Jesus Christ. All I can remember was that it was written in Times New Roman, size 10. I couldn’t tell you if it was written in Italian, English, Italianglish, Englitalian. The wine list is extensive and reads like a manuscript of Italian vineyards. I wish I could tell you more, but I’m shamefully ill-versed in all things wine-related. Medium-bodied, spicy, purple berries, red strawberries, it’s all a blur of jammy flavors at the end of a bottle. 

Our antipasti were followed by the spaghetti carbonara and the special pizza of the day, a proscuitto-laced pizza with 6 cubes of butternut squash. Even our lead salt offender agreed that the pasta was pretty salty, but it was al dente, I’ll give them that. We jokingly said the pizza looked like a BBQ Chicken Pizza when it first came out, and ironically enough, that’s what it tasted like. The smoky tomato sauce was probably what did it. 

img_01602

I wasn’t kidding about the 6 cubes. Count it. 

Regardless of our experience with the food, I had a great time. It only reaffirmed that eating is a shared human experience that involves more than just food. We clinked our glasses aplenty and did what girls do best-yammer.  I will give them the benefit of the doubt and suppose that we just picked the wrong night. I would consider going again, because the venue is a great place to meet friends and share bites. The prices are very reasonable (entrees average $10-15) and it carries a casual and fun vibe in a “classy” sort of way. Would I recommend it? Perhaps, with some reservations. And a large bottle of Poland Spring. 

Just kidding. Sort of. 

 

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4 Responses to “Otto, I Wish I Could Give You an Eight”

  1. 1 smelly

    Oh how I’ve missed your Yi. I want to get rich and buy you a restaurant. Like The Swingers guy did for the Friends girl. Everything’s been done before. Did you hear that Stephen moved out of murder town?

  2. 2 foodyi

    I couldn’t agree with you more!

    Did you hear that Stephen and I will be neighbors??

  3. 3 smelly

    like how close? that’s so cool!! Are you gonna join each others cooking clubs?

  4. 4 foodyi

    VERY. Like 2 blocks I believe. We’ve already agreed to meet at the deli cart in the AM with our matching parasols to grab our daily coffee in greek paper cups alongside our bagels smeared with cream cheese. Wish you could meet us there.


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