it seems a little touristy these days to go to a batali restuarant, with so much of him on tv. and such, but i do have a soft spot in my heart for those amazing pastas. pre-kids, j. and i used to go hang out at the babbo bar to gorge ourselves on gnocchi with braised oxtail and the best brussel sprouts ever. we also used to frequent lupa, and suffer the interminable lines just to have the most exquisite and simple bucatini all’ amitriciana or the equally basic and delicious bavette cacio and pepe.
these days though, babbo just feels way too suburban (especially on a saturday night, yikes), and we just don’t want to waste our precious babysitting evenings waiting for a a table at lupa on those nights so we get our batali fix at otto enoteca pizzeria. as an added incentive to lure us there, we have a regular crew of friends who — lucky ducks — live right near by and eat there for lunch on the weekends quite often. it’s easy for us to meet up en famille as during the day otto is, surprisingly, an excellent place to bring kids of all ages. the place is pretty empty around noon, there are plenty of stools around the bar and a super attentive staff. and let’s not forget those constantly entertaining packets of breadsticks.
the food is also consistently excellent at otto. the menu always features a bunch of super fresh, right-from-the-market goodies. on our recent visit this summer, we had very tasty heirloom tomatoes served with red onions and i think it was pecorino brushed with just a hint of vinegar and olive oil. we also had a trio of antipasti including glistening, sweet beets as well as a recurring special of corn and fregola which i crave the minute i walk through that door. otto’s pizzas are always a core part of our lunch sessions. the toppings change constantly. favorites include the potato, anchovy and ricotta and the quattro stagioniand i am partial to any of the meats like pepperoni or the prosciutto with arugula. and lastly, we cannot forget dessert. otto’s olive oil gelato is fantastic and they’re constantly experimenting with other flavors to reflect the season.
in addition to the food, we are quite addicted to the people. dennis mullally is a highlight of our otto visits. as one of the nicest and most patient bar manager’s around, dennis knows the ins and outs of every single cocktail, and is always game to create a new one — with alcohol or without — and they are good. one of our friends, who is a regular, also pointed out that otto has fantastic wines by the quartino, and dennis and his crew (frank, john and sam) are incredibly helpful with decisions and always willing to let you sample.
and finally, it doesn’t hurt that j and i have quite an emotional connection to the otto space. pre-otto it was clementine, the space that j and i celebrated with friends after getting officially married by a judge. i had some huge fever so the whole thing went by in a blur but it was a great night nonetheless so i think i will always be fond of whatever restaurant is operating in the beautiful space at one fifth avenue. otto enoteca pizzeria, one fifth avenue at 8th street street, manhattan, new york, 212.995.9559.