by Ada on May 18, 2011

Man, this weather really blows. I thought APRIL showers bring may flowers. And that the Mayflower brings the pilgrams. Hehe. Ok, bad joke, I know.

This morning began bright and early with a 4:45am wake-up call. My usual pool is closed this week, so my friend and I met at another one and completed a beastly workout. Why beastly, you ask? Well, he came up with the brilliant idea of kicking 15x100s on a descending interval. Woah nelly, my legs felt like jello afterwards. The set was harder than running the 18.5 miles during Ragnar.

Today I took care of some odds and ends and then headed downtown to meet a friend for dinner. Yeh, that’s a cat sitting on that man’s head. No biggie.

I met Deena at Otto, a restaurant of Mario Batali’s empire.

Otto offers a wide range of Italian dishes at reasonable prices, catering to the NYU crowd.

Upon being seated we were greeted with the requisite loaf of rustic bread, but without any butter or olive oil for dipping.For our entrees we decided to share different dishes. We began with the sunchoke escarole salad, which was brought out approximately 0.5 milliseconds after ordering.

This dish was extremely underwhelming. Sure, you can’t really go wrong with cheese, almonds, and lemon juice, but the ingredients did nothing to extract the gentle flavor of the sunchoke, or highlight the escarole’s tenderness.

Next up we shared the cauliflower and brocoli rabe antipastis. The cauliflower was rather flavorless and completely drenched in a thickened butter sauce. The brocolli rabe was spicy, yet simultaneously  bland. You could just boil some brocoli rabe at home and it would taste no different.

For our pasta dish we selected the daily special, whose exact name alludes me. It was essentially rigatoni tossed in a mint pesto and sprinkled with ricotta salata. Again, completely bland. Even the pesto I make at home tastes infinitely more flavorful than this goopy green sauce.  Otto also does not use fresh pasta, and it certainly shows. The rigatoni possessed an overcooked texture, as though it had been sitting out for an extended period of time.

Everyone always raves about Otto’s gelato, so of course we had to try it. We selected the butterscotch banana gelato coppetta, which came topped with peanut brittle, carmelized bananas, and brownies. With ingredients like those, you would expect to be completely wowed by this dessert.  Sure, it was tasty, but certainly not mind blowing. The ratio of gelato to toppings felt off and the carmelized bananas possessed a strange texture.

I should also note that a constant stream of cold air fell upon our table. This was the first time I literally sat through a meal shivering. We both wore our coats and agreed we could also wear gloves and scarves and still be cold. In addition, we felt rushed out by the staff. Plates would constantly be removed with food left on them before we had a chance to finish.


Otto is like a well oiled machine. The staff knows how to churn out dishes quickly and cycle patrons through in a timely fashion. Unfortunately, the machine remains at a static mediocrity, and the staff does not seem to care. Otto simply exists as a means to satisfy collegiate students and families, not as a showcase of fine Italian cuisine.

Otto Enoteca & Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Jess May 18, 2011 at 1:27 am

Oh me oh myyyyy..Otto looks SO good!!


Noya May 18, 2011 at 3:38 am

I’ve heard great things about Otto and was actually planning to eat there when I was in NYC. I’m so disappointed to hear that it’s not all it’s been made to be. That tends to happen when people overly rave about a restaurant…
Hey, at least the food looked pretty?


Hannah May 18, 2011 at 4:03 am

I can’t stand being cold at restaurants! Completely ruins my night :(


Jenn May 18, 2011 at 5:37 am

Yea, I had the same experience!! It was BLEH! My boyfriend and I went about a month ago and were totally not pleased!!! Mario batali’s worst restaurant (we think)…it was a disappointment because his babbo is amazing. Anyway, we ordered the fried egg on top pizza, a sausage containing olive oil based pasta, and a margherita pizza. It was all so bland. I thought the complimentary bread was so ordinary and the packaged breadsticks…impersonal. I would personally recommend Emporio on Spring street instead. for half the price and better quality dishes


Sarah May 18, 2011 at 1:39 pm

What a bummer! There are so many wonderful Italian restaurants in NYC that one that isn’t up to par really stands out. My fave Batali restaurant is Esca – it’s a bit pricey but great for a dinner that parents are buying! ;)


Allison @ Runs A Latte May 18, 2011 at 2:50 pm

Wow – you should totally be a restaurant critique! You write great reviews!

And how can you get served nice Italian bread without butter or olive oil? That’s just a tragedy!


Ada May 18, 2011 at 9:06 pm

Aww thanks!


lynn @ the actor's diet May 18, 2011 at 10:57 pm

i remember going to otto when it first opened, back when i lived in nyc. i wasn’t terribly impressed but i’d love to go back now that they’ve been around so long


sarah (the SHU box) May 19, 2011 at 1:26 pm

also so impressed with this detailed, balanced review! so often in blogs it’s just one positive rave after another. . . i know i can trust your reviews :)


Ada May 19, 2011 at 1:28 pm

Thanks Sarah!


donuts4dinner May 26, 2011 at 1:41 pm

I want a headcat! I love seeing all the dogs being walked around the city, but seriously, I need more outdoor cat action.

I’m really surprised they’re not using fresh pasta there; I still dream about the pasta I had at Babbo. I still want to try Otto’s pizza, though.


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