Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Otto Enoteca Pizzeria


Fat Guy
 Share

Recommended Posts

A few preliminary thoughts on Otto:

- That the pizza is cooked on a griddle and then under a broiler is great news for home cooks: It shows that excellent pizza without specialized equipment is clearly possible. It also means the Otto restaurant concept can be reproduced pretty much anywhere.

- This is the way "designer pizza" should have been done in the first place. When Wolfgang Puck and others drove the first outburst of designer pizza back in the day, I think they got it wrong. They focused too much on unusual and unique combinations and weren't focused enough. The way Batali is doing it makes much more sense to me: He's just making pizza, but he's sourcing his ingredients the way a serious restaurant would.

- The dining room is pedestrian, but the front room (where the bar is) is gorgeous. The whole bar area -- which is definitely where I'd dine were I alone or with just one other person -- is laden with fire-engine-red, vintage 1920s Berkel slicers and scales. All the meats and antipasto selections are sliced and plated in plain view in a glassed-in garde-manger kitchen area. Only the pizzas, desserts, and a few plated items come out of the kitchen in the back.

- Prices: Vegetables (eggplant caponatina, pickled mushrooms, etc.) are $4 each; meats are $8 for a plate or $21 for a large platter; same for fish; plated salads are $8 including Batali's take on caprese which seems to be about half a pound of mozzarella smothered in pesto and surrounded by ripe tomatoes who knows where he got them from; pizzas range from $7 to $14 with margherita at $8 and prosciutto-arugula at $13 (the pizzas are small and thin so each pretty much serves one person); three flavors of gelato $10 and two flavors $7; gianduja calda $8.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That's the mozzarella-and-tomato salad, which I described above -- not very clearly -- as, "Batali's take on caprese which seems to be about half a pound of mozzarella smothered in pesto and surrounded by ripe tomatoes who knows where he got them from."

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I encourage more eGullet members, if possible to post pictures that they take. Especially professional shot type pictures, like Ellen took here. Now I know how the unique griddle/broiler cooked pizzas at Otto look like.

----------------------

Steve

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Steve, I also hope users will post images -- no matter the quality of their photographic equipment or their level of skill in photography or postprocessing. Here are a few more snapshots from Otto, taken yesterday:

In terms of the pizza-making procedure, note the pile in the foreground here. The pizza shells seem to be par-cooked, then garnished, then finished . . .

otto1.jpg

After garnishing, they're placed on the griddle . . .

otto2.jpg

And then, finally, heated from the top . . .

otto3.jpg

Ingredients are fine-restaurant quality and prepared by hand -- no plastic tubs of pre-sliced pepperoni here . . .

otto4.jpg

Here's some of that circa 1920s Berkel equipment -- a hand-powered slicer, and a scale . . .

otto5.jpg

otto6.jpg

Some more detailed shots of a few of Otto's food offerings: pizzas, and the caprese . . .

otto7.jpg

otto8.jpg

otto9.jpg

Courtesy of Mario Batali, of course . . .

otto10.jpg

Photos by Ellen R. Shapiro

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Fat Guy, in the picture of the prosciutto-arugula pizza in the bottom right hand corner, is it a trick of lighting, or am i actually looking at see-through slices of prosciutto? i'm salivating either way, but wow :laugh:

Yield to Temptation, It may never come your way again.

 --Lazarus Long

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ellen certainly poured a lot of light onto that pie from two directions in order to make that see-though effect show up in the photo, but it's also plainly visible with the naked eye if you're there in person. Those Berkel slicers, from the golden age of European meat-slicing (Mario pinpoints this as late 19th Century through beginning of World War II), really do a number on the meat. It is indeed translucent.

Thank you for noticing, by the way. This was one of those situations where Ellen took quite a few shots to get it the way she wanted it, all the while saying, "Nobody is even going to notice all the work we did to get that translucent effect to show."

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Otto is open Tuesday-Sunday for breakfast, lunch and dinner, 9AM-11.30PM

Does anyone know what they are serving for breakfast?

Maybe if we're really, really good, they'll serve those sandwiches of gelato in a brioche-type roll? :wub::wub:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Suzanne, you took the words right out of my mouth. When Yvonne asked about breakfast, I was going to say "gelato, I hope." I'm not an authority on the subject but the ice cream/gelato is probably a product somewhere between gelato and ice cream and suffers nothing for that. My first impression is that the gelato is the best stuff in the house. I hope this is not an opening show of indulgence and that they continue to use the first grade ingredients they are now using.

The staff was very solicitous, as Suvir said, maybe too much so, if that's possible. Anyway the attention and interest seemed genuine even if the menu really didn't need all that much explaining. I arrived early and was waiting in the bar area where I declined to order a drink but made use of one of the two copies of the NY Times that seemed to be for browsing. I was surprised when the bar waitress showed up with a glass of ice water and put it at my elbow. I found that a telling gesture. I'll be very surprised to hear any stories of a less than gracious and attentive staff.

I found the food very good, especially at that price. You can get three courses, assuming you accept pizza as a main course, for less than the price of a burger at db bistro, but it's not a mini Jean Georges or even mini Babbo. It is a place that should find it's way into many people's dining out plans. I'll eagerly return and already have plans to return this weekend.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Suzanne F.

Thanks so much. hope I can convince him. :biggrin:

RR

Mars 2112 is a restaurant for kids. You have to "ride" in a spaceship to get to the dining room (not before passing the gift shop) to eat "galaxy fries" and other samey theme-restaurant fare.

Meanwhile, I had a somewhat quick dinner at Otto on Monday night. I think I agree with Yvonne in that the gelato was the best thing I had. I too wasn't impressed with the crust -- it was a little tough for me. The toppings were impeccable, though. I didn't get to sample many of the appetizer/antipasti as we were trying to make a film screening. I'll definitely go back, though.

Edited by bpearis (log)

"If it's me and your granny on bongos, then it's a Fall gig'' -- Mark E. Smith

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think as far as the crust criticism goes we have to assume that because this is the first week of operation, the pizza making technique has not been fully "tweaked" yet. Just imagine what this stuff is gonna taste like after he finishes beta testing!

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think as far as the crust criticism goes we have to assume that because this is the first week of operation, the pizza making technique has not been fully "tweaked" yet. Just imagine what this stuff is gonna taste like after he finishes beta testing!

Do we have to assume this, Jason? I was assuming that the pizza was to everyone else's taste. Apart from me and bpearis, I didn't see anyone else comment on it negatively. And I was wondering if the texture of the base was related to being cooked on the griddle.

Not unless there is inconsistency, that is, Suvir, FG and others had a different dough than me, g. and bpearis? From the photos, the bases look the same as what we had, but I imagine the salt and oil content could be very different in different batches.

But as you say, time will tell, and I'll certainly go back.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yvonne, I'm not sure I said the pizza was made in a style I favor or that it was free of defects. But I do think there are two issues here, as you indicate: Whether the style of pizza is valid, and whether the plan is carried out according to specification. On the first half of the equation, I'm guessing that you're probably just not a fan of actual Neapolitan-style pizza. The texture and appearance of Batali's crust is spot-on accurate according to the traditional technical terms of the genre: The soft pliability imparted by the "00" flour, and extreme thinness. In terms of the second half, I'm guessing that to accommodate American palates he'll have to increase seasoning, cook a little farther into doneness (especially in the top-broil phase of things), and use a heavier hand with toppings. The thing I found totally unassailable, however, was the quality of the ingredients used.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The texture and appearance of Batali's crust is spot-on accurate according to the traditional technical terms of the genre

There is actually an episode of Mario Eats Italy where he visits Napoli and goes to the pizza shop that started it all. From what I can tell, the Otto pizza seeks to emulate this exact style.

Of course in Naples at that particular pizza shop where they invented the Margherita Pizza they dont have all kinds of different pizzas with interesting toppings (I seem to remember from that show 2 or 3 kinds total served there), but everything else from what I can tell seems to try to duplicate the genuine Napolitano pizza experience. Whether New Yorkers will appreciate that for what it is remains to be seen.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Right. I think it bears remembering that the North American pizza genre is something like 100 years old and at the highest levels (the coal oven pizzas of the Tri-State Area) is fully as valid as the Italian version. Batali's pizzas in their current form may not appeal to those whose palates are oriented towards a saltier, more robust, coal-oven-charred pie. I think Mario may have to make minor adjustments to his recipes and procedures in order to accommodate the local palate.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

... I'm guessing that to accommodate American palates he'll have to increase seasoning, cook a little farther into doneness (especially in the top-broil phase of things), and use a heavier hand with toppings.

I think it would be a shame if he did that in haste. OK, so I just happen to be a fan of Neapolitan/Sorrentine pizza, and of course Otto has to make money. But it seems to mee that New York is thoroughly inundated with pizzerie cooking pizze to the American palate, and I would not have thought it needs another, even with Batali's name attached.

I hope Mario will persevere in trying to persuade New Yorkers that there is another style of pizza out there which they will probably enjoy if they give it a chance. And I hope that New Yorkers don't start calling it a "pie" :smile:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Whereas I'd like to see him pump up his pizza a bit. I wouldn't consider it a flaw. This is New York, not Italy. Mario has no irrational commitment to doing things traditionally for their own sake. He's not running Pizza Fresca, which hews to a set of rules imposed by an Italian governing body -- and which has never in the slightest captured the imagination of New Yorkers despite its technically correct pies. Mario wouldn never play that game; he knows he's an American chef inspired by Italy. I'm sure he can create something that you, Yvonne, and I will all love. As it is, I think his stuff is great on the strength of the ingredients. It's very early and it would be wrong to render final judgment now. But my suspicion is that he has somewhat miscalculated what his audience is going to want to see in his pizza. We shall see.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just to clarify: I'm a big fan of thin pizzas. I've not been to Naples, but in Florence and Venice I loved the thin pizza bases. My complaint was that the base of my pizza at Otto last night did not have any flavor. Also, I'm not a big fan of tons of toppings. Last, g. noted that the base of his pizza was a lot drier than mine, so at the moment there appears to be inconsistency. No big deal, the place has just opened.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Whereas I'd like to see him pump up his pizza a bit. I wouldn't consider it a flaw. This is New York, not Italy. Mario has no irrational commitment to doing things traditionally for their own sake.

Don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying he should stick to Neapolitan style because it's "authentic" (ugh, how I hate that word) or even traditional, but just because it's good.

But you're right that there's no point in Mario saying, as he fires the staff and goes bankrupt "Sorry, guys, but at least the pizza was good, wasn't it ?" :raz:

Your point about ingredients is well made. My limited experience of pizza in New York is that the toppings all seem to come out of some standard do-it-yourself pack, and there seems to be a view that the dough is only needed to keep the toppings separated from the plate.

...and I still hope they don't call Mario's pizzas "pies"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...