The challenge: a venue for dinner with AS and his girlfriend, during which I would cast judgment on whether she was good enough for one of my oldest friends. Harsh, harsh judgment. (Spoiler: She is. By a long shot.) The place needed to be fun, not too expensive, upbeat, non-threatening, and most importantly, offer Otto's olive oil gelato for dessert. What's that? The only option would then, obviously, be Otto? Roger that. A reservation was made, and we arrived to dine.
The traditional paper-wrapped wedge of bread and tiny Italian breadsticks were offered, though we had to request olive oil for the bread. And then, a reasonable time after we placed our order, came the entrees.
For me, the escarole and sunchoke salad. This was a sprightly and surprisingly filling salad, thanks to its sprinkled cheese and ample handfuls of crushed marcona almonds. The escarole and sunchokes were bland but crunchy, serving mostly as vehicles for the lemony vinaigrette. This is a quintessential spring salad, perfect for a blistering hot day.
And then came the pizza. For delightful couple, one pepperoni pizza and one quattro stagioni pizza. Both were received with raves and exclamations.
Then came what we were there for: dessert! I've been having weird cravings for the olive oil gelato, and as such it's been on my do-before-I-leave-NYC list. Welp, consider that checked off. The two ladies at the table went for the gelato: for me, olive oil, hazelnut stracciatella, and caramel; for S, olive oil, hazelnut stracciatella, and milk chocolate chip. The caramel, the only flavor I hadn't tried before, was pleasantly bitter and a good counterpoint to the sweetness of the other flavors. The olive oil was just as intriguingly herbacious as ever, and the hazelnut stracciatella was mild and alluring. Unlike the in-yo'-face hazelnut flavor that most gelatos go for, this one is demure, letting the crunch of the chocolate offset the pleasing nuttiness. Delightful all around.
Oh, and AS got an affogatto. 'Cause he's classy like that.
Otto is the perfect restaurant for this kind of occasion-- casual but incredibly delicious, not too expensive but high quality. And the gelato is out of this world. If you're one of the four remaining people in NYC who haven't tried it, go. And get the olive oil gelato. Even if it sounds repulsive, you won't regret it, I promise.
One Fifth Avenue, at Eighth Street