The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

Eating a Lot at Otto is Awesome

little dishes of tastiness

I couldn't stay away from Otto for long. I needed more pasta. I needed more side dishes. I needed...corn.

corn and stuff I can't remember

Or rather, Kathy and Lauren told me I needed corn. Not just any corn; corn and fregola. That's corn with corn kernel-sized semolina flour-based pasta, which is somehow better than corn by itself.

Anchovies, Breadcrumbs, Scallions
Mm, anchovies

Anchovies, breadcrumbs, and scallions was another favorite of mine. The breadcrumbs weren't breadcrumbs so much as not-so-dry croutons, not dry because they were soaked in olive oil. Olive oil sponges. Yes.

Mussels, Peperonata, Mint

I've never had mussels as tender as the ones in the mussels, peperonata, and mint. Not that I'm a big fan of mussels, but if I were...oh hoho.

Octopus, Celery, Lovage

I am a fan of octopus when it's done well, like in the octopus, celery, and lovage dish. I must have grown up eating crappy octopus because it's only been within the past year that I found out that it doesn't have to taste like a rubber band. Rubber bands don't taste good. This octopus reminded me of the grilled octopus I had at Babbo—slightly sweet, tender, with this uniform fishball-like texture without the bounciness. No rubber band qualities. And it was better than at Babbo because it was hella cheaper. And now I know that octopus goes with celery.

Shrimp, Ceci (chickpeas), Chiles

Shrimp, chickpeas, and chiles. was another good combination.

Seppia (cuttlefish) con Acetini

Seppia con acetini (cuttlefish with pickled vegetables) was less enthralling. Mildly chewy. Not a good chewy. The elastic kind of chewy. It wasn't bad, just not my cup of tea.

Figs Agrodolce

And there were the figs agrodolce soaked in that sweet alcoholic stuff. If you like everything soaked in alcohol, this is for you.

There's reasoning behind this seafood-splosion: economically, it was the best way to go. Each seafood side costs $8, but all five is only $21. You could just go with the anchovies and the octopus—my two favorites—but for another $5 you can get another three excellent sides. Not a hard choice to make, especially when there are three people to split it between.

Escarole & Sunchoke salad
Salad, it's delicious

Although I'm not a big fan of ordering salads, the escarole and sunchoke salad was worth getting. Too much cheese for my taste, but lots of almond bits. DELICIOUS ALMOND BITS.

mm, more salad

The caprese salad was unlike any other I had eaten before. It wasn't just mozzarella, tomato, and basil, but marinated tomato plops and a ball of fresh mozzarella smothered in pesto and topped with pine nuts. Drool. Drool away.


Why have I never had spaghetti alla carbonara before? It was awesomely rich with every thick strand coated in egg...mixed with pancetta, scallions, and black pepper.

Pasta alla norma

Pasta alla norma, the best pasta dish I've ever had involving ricotta blops and eggplant.

so much food.  yay!

TABLE (well, bar counter) OF FOOD, YEY.

olive oil, peppermint chocolate chip, and cantaloupe sorbetto

No matter how much I eat at Otto, I can always polish off a cup of gelato. Olive oil is always in my three-flavor cup. It's the best flavor ever, along with being the richest and creamiest. Probably has something to do with all the oil squeezings. Let's take a closer look.

olive oil gelato, yesss

Mm, olive oil pool.

The other two flavors, peppermint chocolate chip and cantaloupe sorbet, tasted just how I hoped they would, but better. Peppermint chocolate chip was made with real peppermint, and you know how I like my herbal gelato. Cantaloupe was like eating the buttery smooth flesh of the ripest melon. A MAGICAL MELON. Made of non-fat butter.

Otto won my heart once more. As long as there's no world shortage of olive oil, I'll keep going back.


1 5th Ave
New York, NY 10003


SK / July 28, 2008 12:56 AM

Did you enjoy the figs? They look awesome!

On a totally unrelated note, I spotted you at Red Hook this afternoon! Unfortunately, I was a bit star struck and when I finally made up my mind to say hi, I couldn't find you. I think the rain must have driven you away?

santos. / July 28, 2008 12:59 AM

i know this guy who has a standing reservation at all of batali's restaurants. he eats at otto at least once a week. there's like, a dozen expletives i'd like to call him because of this privilege. AND he's skinny. i've just thought of a dozen more.

Christina / July 28, 2008 1:10 AM

I love your Otto posts because I thinks it's great that they are so into their side dishes! Most sides are, "blah", "okay, won't that be nice *nods head politely*", but those are incredible! Especially the anchovies with crunchy olive oil sponges!

G / July 28, 2008 1:37 AM

Wow Robyn, this looks great. So many bowls of yummy foods.

Mmmmmm Olive oil sponges.

AppetiteforChina / July 28, 2008 3:47 AM

The mussels look amazing. Like you, I always got olive oil gelato at Otto when I lived in the city. The other flavors are good, but can't top the olive oil with a sprinkling of sea salt on top.

TastyNewEngland / July 28, 2008 7:57 AM

After reading about Otto here and other places I think you NYC bloggers have convinced me that this is going to be my destination the next time I'm in the city. Being a student I'm on a pretty tight budget but all of those for $21? That's outrageous, I was watching you rack up those sides and figuring you were racking up a crazy bill as well. :)

Yuizaki / July 28, 2008 10:14 AM delicious looking.. I have not been to Otto's yet...I should talk to some people about this...

But I am trying to save money for some trips so...

But once in a while doesn't hurt, right?!

Well twice...since I still have a gift certificate to Industria Argentina from my use.

Julie / July 28, 2008 11:48 AM

Mmm ... there's something special about eating a lot of different food out of tiny dishes. Also, sunchokes rock. Also, I keep watching for olive oil gelato out here, but no luck so far.

I learned what carbonara was from one of Nigella's shows. She made it look so decadent. She could make a bowl of mud look decadent. Needless to say, I made it a few nights after I saw it, and nearly exploded in glee. But I didn't explode. That would've meant no more carbonara, or anything for that matter!

Jenni / July 28, 2008 3:02 PM

I gotta admit, I was "hmm, that all looks okay I guess" up until you hit the salads and then I was wondering if I could claim it was healthy to eat, like, five of those Capreses because it was SALAD.

I am visiting NYC this week and I already have a list of about twenty places to stuff myself, thanks to your blog and Serious Eats. MY DIET AND POCKETBOOK SHAKE THEIR FISTS AT YOU ROBYN.

roboppy / July 28, 2008 5:06 PM

SK: I didn't dislike the figs, but I would've liked them more if..I liked alcohol. ;_;

Ahh I wish you had said hi! No lurking next time! BWAHAHAHA THAT IS AN ORDERRR!! I was at the fields for a while, then went to Steve's Key Lime Pies, then went back to the fields when it started to RAAAIN, then went home to plop down.

Santos: WUUUT. WHO IS THAT GUY and ..that's just not fair. :(

Christina: Yeah, I usually expect sides to be "meh," an afterthought, but THESE ARE GOOD. Sweet jesus. You could make a meal out of em.

G: Life needs more olive oil sponges.

AppetiteforChina: I'm glad that I only eat olive oil gelato at Otto or I might tire of it. It's the beeest.

TastyNewEngland: The final bill ended up being semi splurgy (more than $30), but for all the food it was definitely worth it!

Yuizaki: I like to save the monies too. BUT OTTO...MUST GO TO OTTO. Just not like, every day. Maybe. Twice a month. Hehe.

Julie: It's fun to have a mini-buffet right in front of you! ;)

Maybe I should try to make carbonara...

Yvo: THIS CAN BE ARRANGED! :D Just let me know where you wanna go, haha.

Jenni: Ah yes, anything with "salad" in it must be good for you, even when the salad is mostly mozzarella and mashed pine nut basil goo.

20 places, yeaah! Stomach is gonna blooow! Let me know what you like the most on your trip!

Melissa Good Taste / July 28, 2008 5:53 PM

Oh wow! I need a new camera. Or just figure out how to work mine properly... your pictures of food is amazing! Do you use a flash or no flash? I am so lost in the art of taking photos in restaurants...

Kathryn / July 29, 2008 12:05 AM

The Caprese salad looks more amazing than I can describe. Seriously. I wish I could make decent pesto; alas, I usually end up eating the pine nuts straight. =/

But yes, I don't know how you've never had spaghetti carbonara. It's all kinds of amazing and I make it all the time and crap, now I want to get out of bed and go make some. =)

Morten / July 29, 2008 8:08 AM

Another great visit to Otto's. I have to say this looks amazing. I wish we had a place like this in Bergen I kind of want all the things you ate right about now, and I'll be checking out Pasta alla Norma when I go to Italy later this year. Haven't had it, but judging by your enthusiasm I assume it's amazing.

Oh, and I think the reason why you haven't had carbonara before might be because so many places make the version with cream in it, and that is just horrible, in my not so humble opinion. The pure one, like the one you guys had, is amazing and is something I eat all the time. I guess I should thank Marko, my Croatian-Italian friend who taught me how to make it :)

Julie / July 29, 2008 10:49 AM

Of course you should!

Spaghetti alla Carbonara Recipe courtesy Nigella Lawson

1 pound spaghetti
2 cups cubed pancetta rind removed
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 cup dry white wine or vermouth
4 eggs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 cup heavy cream
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly ground nutmeg

Put a large pan of water on to boil for the pasta.
In another large pan that will fit the pasta later, cook the pancetta cubes in the oil until crispy but not crunchy. Pour over the white wine or vermouth and let it bubble away so that, after a few minutes, you have a small amount of salty winey syrup left. Take the pan off the heat.

In a bowl, beat together the eggs, Parmesan, cream, and pepper. Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions, but since you want it kept al dente start checking it 2 minutes before end of the recommended cooking time.

When the pasta is done, remove approximately 1/2 cup of the pasta water before draining. Put the pan with the bacon cubes back on the heat and add the drained pasta, tossing well to coat with the syrupy pancetta. Take the pan off the heat again and add the eggs and cheese mixture, swiftly tossing everything to mix. Thin with pasta water, if needed. Grind over some more pepper and grate over the nutmeg to serve.

Kate / July 29, 2008 5:53 PM

Pasta alla yummy...

Olive oil sponges? I think I like those...I've never had them, but I think I like them anyways.

NORI / July 29, 2008 9:06 PM

Hi Robyn.
It's been great to know your blog!
Last time I visited NYC, I followed your reviews of Il labo & Grom. (And Levain, Great Noodle, Baby cake and Sobaya..etcetc...)
But I haven't been Otto yet.
MMM Olive oil gelato.
I can't miss it since my mum owns gelato shop in Japan!
May be next time, which is next month.
I can't wait!!

Leigh / July 29, 2008 10:02 PM

i can't even imagine how olive oil gelato would taste, that's how gelato-deprived i am. oh, texas, when will you learn?

roboppy / July 30, 2008 1:04 AM

Melissa: No flash! But I adjust the brightness in photoshop. ;) Otherwise my photos may be really dark at first

Kathryn: I used to eat pine nuts by the handful!

Annnd yes I should make some spaghetti carbonara.

Manda: You are hungry...lous. :( I should show you what i eat when I'm alone; you wouldn't be jealous. It's like..bad.

Steph: I'm lucky I'm not OBESE.

Morten: Make me some spagheeetti!!

Julie: Thanks for the recipe! That sounds gut-busting. ;)

Kate: Yes, you like them. Them sponges of oil.

NORI: So glad you used my recommendations! Next time you gotta try Otto. That's awesome that you mom owns GELATO sounds like a dream come true.

Leigh: How is the world of gelato in Texas? I HAVE NEVER BEEN. SOB SOB. ME WANT BBQ!

Boots in the Oven / July 30, 2008 7:15 PM

Danggit, girl, you're killing me here in Austin! Every single one of those seafood sides looks delicious, and pasta alla norma has been about my favorite pasta since we had it for the first time in Sicily.

I'm happy Batali's restaurants seem to be universally terrific... I wanna collect all twelve, or however many there are.

roboppy / August 1, 2008 12:22 PM

Boots: Pasta alla norma is one of my fave things..EVERRR...yes. How could anyone not like it?

I'm made a very small dent in the Batali restaurant empire. But I'm so happy with Otto, I don't feel like I have to go anywhere else.!

SuperChomp / August 7, 2008 7:05 AM

I've never been to an Italian restaurant with such a variety of fabulous looking sides you can order, but I like the idea of it. It almost looks like you're having dim sum (or I might just be on cr4ck, in which case you can ignore me). I think one should always share food when eating out, but no-one ever really indulges my whims *sad face*

roboppy / August 8, 2008 2:50 PM

SuperChomp: It kinda does feel like dim sum. :D Sharing is the only way to go, definitely. Why would anyone be against eating more things?!

NORI / August 27, 2008 7:01 PM

Hi Robyn!
So I finally visited Otto last weekend.
It was soooo good.
We ate Pizza Vongole> clam was so juicy. It was almost like drinking soup! delicious!!
Pasta alla norma>so creamy and rich! of course we cleaned dish with bread.
And gelato.
My choice was, olive oil, cherry rum and nactarine. Thanks to you!! I had to tell my mum to make olive oil gelato back in Japan!!

I also visited Mei Lah Wah for pork bun, Two little red hen, the chocolate room etcetc. Yes for me, travel=eating a lot.
Thanks to you that led me to wat at Otto!
I am not sure when I will visit NY next,but if you don't mind, I really wanna to eat with you!

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