>Otto: 1 Fifth Ave @ 8th st. New York, NY

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How sad is it that I’m eating a pretty awful Lean Cuisine microwaved pizza for dinner as I’m writing about my amazing lunch at Mario Batali’s casual restaurant, Otto? So sad I could almost cry about it. The food was so incredible that not once did I find my mind wandering to Mario’s horrible trademark orange Crocs and gnarly hair!
My dear friend had been raving about this restaurant for months and I finally had the chance to join her there for lunch today. She affectionately calls it her second home and now I totally understand why she’d want to return twice or more per week. It really is a great choice for dining alone; with friends, with clients or even with a large group. There are so many wonderful dishes that are perfect for sharing that I bet it’s really great to go with a party of 4-6. They also have a ridiculously long wine list that would impress the most selective connoisseur.
I let C choose for us since she has tried pretty much everything they offer. There was SO much on the menu that I wanted to eat. I think I may require at least few more visits for the meats, the pasta and the pizzas…not to mention the myriad flavors of gelato. The bread that came out right away was crusty and chewy and moist and ooooohhhhhhh. Yes, please. We shared 3 unbelievable cheese selections that were served with OMG the most outstanding dipping sauces. I wanted a straw. Or an I.V. catheter. Honey with truffles, brandied cherries and apricots. WOW. As if melty, creamy, velvety cheeses even need a dip…but oh, once you try it you realize that of COURSE they do and the bread does too! Wow. I’m truly almost speechless about how much I loved those incredible cheeses. We also had a few antipasti: corn with fregola- autumnal amazingness; octopus, celery and lovage-light, summery and wonderful; and  a small green salad of romaine and red onions over a thin slice of excellent provolone, which was fine but kind of on the boring side with just a simple vinaigrette. When we finished everything in front of us, I was comfortably full, but not overstuffed. I also wanted to re-order everything for a second round just to have a few more precious moments with all of those wonderful tastes.

For dessert we each had a delicious cappuccino and shared the Olive Oil Coppeta. What an interesting dessert! Olive Oil gelato has gotten very trendy around here lately and I was looking forward to trying it. As a true chocoholic, I’m can be a fairly tough crowd with non-choco desserts, but It was VERY good. I was surprised at how much I loved the olive oil flavor. It wasn’t at all ‘oily’ which was what I was worried about. It was served with lime curd, basil syrup, raspberries and little anisette crumbles on top. Although I do NOT like the flavor of anise, I did really surprisingly enjoy the slightly bitter contrast to the sweetness of the berries. Overall, this was not my favorite sugary indulgence in the world, but very unique, unusual and refreshing.
Strong recommendations to visit Otto if you are in the area…or even if it’s a little out of your way. It’s definitely worth the trip.

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