When my birthday rolled around, I was trying to decide where to have my celebration dinner. Growing up, I almost always had a pool party with heaps of crawfish cooked up by my mom (thanks mom!). Seeing as neither of those would really be a viable option for my first birthday in New York City, I started thinking how this would be the perfect opportunity to go to a famous chef’s restaurant. It was going to be a special day so I could rationalize splurging a little bit! After researching various placed on my must-try, fancy New York restaurants list, I started to rethink things. Even if I was okay with spending a little more than average for my birthday, I wouldn’t feel too grand if I made all my close friends fork over $30-$40 to eat with me when they couldn’t really say no to coming.
After narrowing it down a bit more I found OTTO Enoteca e Pizzeria. Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich are partners in the restaurant and well-known in the food world so I got to check off going somewhere owned by someone “famous,” and the food happened to be Italian with a specialty in pizza, which is my other routine choice for my birthdays (and every other day of the year, let’s be real). To top it all off, basically everything on the menu is less than $15, which was not only the price range I was aiming for so as not to burden friends but also pretty great for a nice, sit-down Italian restaurant. Oh and did I mention that this place turned out to be perfect for groups because of the large space and they take reservations? I hit the jackpot!
They give you some crunchy little breadsticks when you sit down and we also ordered the bianca pizza to share as a starter. Funny story about that…on the menu under this option it says “olive oil, sea salt.” After a lengthy discussion going back and forth between whether or not it would also have cheese (“It doesn’t list it, but it’s under the pizza menu so wouldn’t it have cheese??” “But the other pizza options list specific cheeses with the toppings!”) we ended up just asking the waiter who informed us that no, it does not have cheese and each pizza comes with only what is listed below it. Hence why no one ordered it as an entree but we all just decided to give it a go as an appetizer. Okay, maybe that story wasn’t funny at all, but I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t have been devastated if I ordered that one and saw what I had gotten myself into. Hint: do not deprive this girl of cheese on her pizza, especially on her birthday!
Really though, I already knew exactly what I was going to order before coming here. The vongole, or clam, pizza. Are you weirded out? But look at that presentation! I’ve never had clam pizza before and it looked so pretty online, so I was dying to try. I don’t know what the “proper” way to eat clam pizza is, but I just took all the clam meat out of the shells and scattered them around the pizza and ate the slices like normal. I’m glad they didn’t serve the pizza like that though because that wouldn’t have looked nearly as appetizing or been as fun to eat. The saltiness of the clams with the smooth, gooey mozzarella was a nice combo.
Overall I had a nice time with my friends here. We didn’t try any desserts, because I already made plans to go to the nearby Amorino Gelato afterwards (was I Italian in another life?), but I saw that they have some pretty interesting desserts here like Sweet Corn and Olive Oil gelato flavors and a Salty Peanut Tartufo that sounded heavenly. I was secretly hoping that Mario Batali would come out and then find out it was my birthday and serve me a special complimentary dessert. A girl can dream right? If you’re looking for affordable Italian or for a place with nice ambience for a large group, I think OTTO is a good bet.
Bianca pizza, vongole pizza
1 5th Ave.
New York, NY 10003