Before catching a showing of Take Out at the Quad with FC, I suggested Otto for our pre-theater eats. Despite mixed reviews of the place I'd long wanted to check out this branch of the Batali empire, in particular for its "olive oil copetta" dessert touted across the internets. As ya'll know I love when the savory mixes with the sweet, and a fruity, grassy olive oil gelato sundae sprinkled with salt sounded right up my alley. But first, there was an actual meal.
At FC's suggestion we decided to get the "grande" portion of fish antipasti, meaning all five selections for $21 (alone they are $8 each, so this is a good deal). This consisted of octopus with celery and lovage; pickled anchovies with scallions and topped with large olive-oil croutons; shrimp with chickpeas and chiles; mussels with stewed peppers and mint; and chunks of sweet marinated swordfish. We also added on an order of roasted beets with grape must. Of these the mussels were perfectly tender, the anchovies bold and flavorful, and the swordfish so addictive I found myself dipping repeatedly into its ramekin. I wasn't as enamoured with the other three, but that was just because the others were tastier, not because they weren't also good.
I felt like we should try one of the pizzas so we went with "Otto Lardo," a round of thin, chewy dough blistered in the oven and topped with translucent squares of pig fat. The idea of eating slices of fat atop dough was more decadent than the actual experience, which was more like eating a good, oily flatbread speckled with bits of rosemary. It was tasty, but it wasn't as interesting as I had thought it might be.
We also split an order of the spaghetti alla carbonara, which was rich and fine though I would have preferred it to be less salty.
And then finally, with only fifteen minutes or so before we had to take off for the movie, we squeezed in the olive oil copetta, the main reason why I had wanted to come in the first place. And it was…a disappointment. Though I liked the bits of salt atop the creamy, silky gelato, both FC and I were unable to discern much more than a faint touch of olive oil in its flavor, and that only if we really concentrated. It was so faint that FC even inquired if we had received the right order (we had).
So I have mixed feelings about Otto: while overall I quite liked the antipasti we tried, the other dishes were just decent and not anything I didn't feel like I could get elsewhere. And it remains a mystery to me why a gelato so widely praised tasted so much like nothing unusual to both of us. Given the discrepancy, I think I would go again just to figure out whether my first impression was the right one.