I’ve eaten at Otto twice now, and both meals have been mediocre. I don’t know what the problem is — the restaurant is always packed and busy (we saw John Leguizamo eating while we were there recently) but the food just doesn’t add up. I had a pizza the first time I was there, which was only so-so, but a friend told me that the pasta was great. And so when I was there last week I ordered a seasonal-sounding pasta, penne with butternut squash, hazelnuts, and smoked ricotta. It was an incredibly bland dish for such robust ingredients. I ran into the friend who recommended the pasta later that day and he had eaten the same dish at Otto only a few days before. He concurred — the dish fell flat.
The most successful dish for me was the artichoke salad appetizer — large artichokes served at room temperature with thinly sliced onions in a tasty vinaigrette, with ricotta salata for saltiness.
I had lunch with my friends Erin (who is an author and a former co-worker) and Jess (who you might know from my links to Jess & Garrett), each of whom got a pizza. Erin got the DOP Margherita, a traditional tomato and mozzarella pizza, while Jess got the Bianca. Our server (who we had to flag down after waiting for 10 minutes so that we could place our order) warned her that there was no sauce or cheese on it. She didn’t warn Jess about the thin onion paper that was draped over the pizza, which Jess didn’t really care for.
For a side dish Jess ordered the broccoli, served at room temperature and covered in garlic and cheese. The broccoli was nice and crispy, though not seasoned as well as it should have been.
I don’t know what to say about Otto. Maybe it doesn’t have Mario Batali’s full attention, and the food suffers for it. I’ve heard great things about their olive oil gelato, but frankly I don’t have the desire to sit through another meal there to find out.
Otto — One Fifth Ave