Sunday, October 07, 2007

Where the little fishes are plump (New York restaurant: Otto)

If the phrase "Anchovy pizza" conjures up images of hairy brown creatures swimming in little pools of oil on a Domino's pie, you, my friend, have been denied one of the greatest taste pleasures your mouth could ever hope to experience. One remedy for this deficiency would involve a trip to Otto, Mario Batali's cozy pizzeria in New York, preferably for brunch. Without the loud evening wine bar scene, the terracotta/red hued interior, bathed in sunlight from the large windows, extrudes warmth and happiness, the perfect atmosphere for a lazy Sunday brunch.

I am not going to tell you that Otto makes the best pizza in New York, at least not the style of pizza that defines New York. Otto's version exhibits more characters of Italy than those of its resident city. The crust is crisp thin, incapable of the New York fold. It is, however, well charred and serves as the perfect non-distracting vessel for the bright flavors on top. The Otto tomato sauce is distinctly fresh tasting. The vibrant color alone is enough to get me salivating, but it's the sharp acidity that really cuts into and balances the richness of the cheeses.

While a plain cheese pie is a wonder on its own, the anchovy version takes the taste sensation to another level. The plump Italian anchovies adorning the Otto pie come preserved in good olive oil. They bear no resemblance to those tinned hairy bits of the same name found in the canned food aisle of your local supermarket. The heat of the brick oven turns the chubby little guys to an almost melty texture inside, so when your teeth break the fire-crisped skin, the creamy flesh squirt out and deposits a good dose of warm salty juice on your tongue. Ahh... Heaven!
Of course, you can't go to Otto without also trying the excellent gelatos. Get the option that allows you three flavors in one chilled goblet. My favorite is the caramel. Otto doesn't make the salted caramel version that I lust for in my dreams, but I do ask for a bit of good sea salt to put on it myself. The combination is sublime, if not quite out of this world like the salted caramel scoop from Berthillon in Paris. The most unique flavor at Otto has to be the olive oil. It pretty much tastes like wonderful olive oil in sweet and frozen form. Hard to imagine, I know, but incredible nonetheless.

No comments: