Titled “eight” in Italian, OTTO, located on eighth street is Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich’s elevated take on a pizzeria. Both locally sourced and seasonal, the menu is powerfully packed with insanely delicious antipasti, house-cured meats, pastas and pizzas galore. Oh man, it’s epic! If your stomach isn’t swooshing from the ample amounts of great wines you drank as you waddle stuffed like one typically only does after Thanksgiving dinner, go back, you've done something wrong.
Walking in through the humble side street entrance, I expected a far smaller space, to my surprise, it opened up both widthwise and lengthwise. Dim in the daytime, the natural light cascades inward on an angle through the series of tall windows much like in a church. When you go, note that the restaurant is set up for two different kinds of dining experiences. In the front of the restaurant is the enoteca section which is outfitted with high marble topped communal tables where guests are meant to mingle over amazing cheeses, cured meats and bottle after bottle of wine. If you walk past enoteca to the red topped tables surrounded by cherry wood chairs that sit in the back section that feels a bit more like an Italian subway station, that is meant for a more traditional sit down Italian dining experience.
I'm convinced that it's impossible to “order wrong” on this menu. Everything that was placed down on my table is, dare I say it, better than any meal I ate on my three trips to Italy--I know! Cheers to Chef Dan Drohan! The Vongole Pizza is my new obsession. The idea of a pizza adorned with clamshells has never really enticed me mainly due to the hands on nature of having to remove the clam from its shell before folding together each glorious slice and biting down into it. Maybe it's the photographer in me but the presentation alone had such wow factor that I got to thinking, “when I lift the slice, my hands are going to get messy anyway, what difference does the most minimal amount of extra work in exchange for better flavors and true beauty really make?” I think the only thing stopping me from eating that whole pie was the fact that I had a coffee meeting I was running late for.
I highly recommend ordering a bunch of the bowls off of the Verdure portion of the menu. Remember, it's all locally sourced, which, yes, does make it more delicious! When you order, get the Roasted Beets With Mustard & Honey the subtle tang and sweetness are an absolute must.
Really, go with a large group so you have an excuse to order more dishes, and don't skimp! Get the pizzas and the pastas, you will be thanking me later!