On a rainy Sunday afternoon I met Lauren for lunch at 1:00pm. Otto is near perfect at times like these. The restaurant is far too busy with crowds and noise on weekday nights, even Monday, and don’t bother with the weekends. But catch the Otto on a whim, a random afternoon, be it Tuesday or Sunday and another world awaits. Substantially quieter, the clientele is different, much more mellow, yet all the more intriguing. Solo diners and people there with the purpose of good food, with perhaps a single companion.
Escarole & Sunchoke
And so on that Sunday, we sat the bar, two seats right in front of Frank, the bartender who always puts a smile on my face. I could go in with the worst of moods on a mentally stormy day, but by the time dessert swings about, I am saturated in a blissful, if somewhat buzzed mood. Call it my imagination, but for all it is worth, whatever works right? We shared two salads, Artichokes Alla Romana (the weekly special), and Escarole & Sunchoke, a mainstay light creation complete with a smatter of almonds, that satisfies without filling.
Spaghetti Alla Carbonara: Pancetta, Scallions, Black Pepper, Egg
Pasta was split, the Carbonara, easily my second favourite (affordable) pasta dish in the city. The comfort offered by this spaghetti, a cozy tangle of noodles, rich with egg and speckled with salty bits of pancetta, should never be underestimated. The first favourite would be, doubtless, Don’s lamb ragu over parpadelle. I’ve had it twice, once with fresh pasta and another with dry. Fresh makes quite a difference, but perhaps it was my mind playing tricks on me – circumstances and time can, inconveniently enough, twist the taste buds and fiddle with memory.
A meal at Otto ends with gelato. Whether it is one order per person or an order shared, it would be a terrible shame to walk away with nary a lick lingering on your tongue. The newest of their copetta’s is the Figs & Ricotta creation, marrying a single soothing white round of bufala ricotta gelato with roasted figs (still warm!), almond crumble and a swoop of lemon curd. We ate and we shared and over lunch we talked and talked. It was the three hour lunch that felt of three seconds in the wind – I cannot remember a single Sunday I’ve enjoyed more in months. It was, oddly enough, the first meal in a scary long stretch of time, where I stopped right on the verge of full. “Light” is a wonderful feeling.
1 Fifth Avenue
NY, NY 10003