I'm leaving for a quick trip to Paris tomorrow evening, but before heading to France I thought I'd mention a brief but noteworthy visit to Italy, or rather, to a corner of the Batali empire, here in New York.
I love Otto. I love love love it. One of my best afternoons this past summer involved leaving work early on a Friday and sitting at the bar with a book, a pizza, and several glasses of wine, chatting with the bartender and fellow office-sprung lunchers. Otto can be noisy and crowded, but I'm rarely interested in waiting for a table; my heart belongs to the bar, always.
Eating at a restaurant's bar gives me much more freedom to scan and pick and order something, then a little something else, then maybe a bite of this, followed by some more of that. Plus, I always love the birds-eye view of the action behind the bar - I am nothing if not nosy. Which is how I ended up squeezing into the bar at Otto on Saturday night, and having a few glasses of wine - first, the Dolcetto D'Alba followed by the Barbera D'Asti - and some cheese and pasta.
Now, I don't think I've ever eaten at Otto and not ordered pizza, but after a plate of three cheeses (which, if I remember right included a New York State triple cream goat cheese, a
Parmigiano Reggiano and a
Pecorino Di Fossa, all served with a trio of sweet condiments: red-pepper flaked honey, an apricot compote, and something divine with sour cherries) we found ourselves looking longingly at the diner next to us. First a plate of salumi tempted us, then a serving of pasta, and fearing that asking the gentleman for a bite of his dinner would be considered rude, we ordered the pasta for ourselves. It was the bucatini, thicker than spaghetti noodles with a hole in the center, with tomato, red onion and chilies. I love - love - anything with chilies in it, and though we couldn't finish the dish, I have to say that it gave the pizza a run for its (or would that be my?) money.
Of course, the perfect solution is just to show up hungry and try a little of everything, no?