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.

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