22 Feb WHEN THE BAR IS THE STAR: OTTO, NYC

At OTTO, the restaurant at One Fifth Avenue, a 1927 Art Deco apartment house at the corner of 8th Street in Greenwich Village, you’re in for some rustic Italian eats courtesy of the media-meal-man of Food Network fame, Mario Batali.  He’s often in residence and easy to spot – there’s no mistaking the signature trademarks of thinning ginger frocks and fulsome girth atop the Crocs of this chef and restauranteur extradordinaire.

FUSILLI WITH ALL THE FIXINS AT OTTO

FUSILLI WITH ALL THE FIXINS AT OTTO

Years ago we’d stop for a drink at the bar of One Fifth, the longtime restaurant that was all about clubby 20th century dining style. Now, however, instead of a martini and steak you’re likely to be pairing vino to pasta, pizza and antipasti.  It’s a good thing that Mr. Batali aims to please your palate as well as your pocket – you’ll be hard pressed to find another restaurant in NYC, or for that fact, America, where an exceptional bowl of fusilli con escarole and sausage comes in at $10.  Ditto for tasty thin-crusted pizzas like a Margherita with buffalo mozzarella ($11) and flavor-packed antipasti plates.  At OTTO, Get ready for lots of soddisfacente delizioso-ness at this trattoria that is as much neighborhood hangout as it is destination dine.

About that dine, skip over the dining room – gone are its prewar charms, replaced with a middlebrow hotel sensibility of bad light fixtures and budget-issue furnishings that are all tied together with sensory dulling maroon colored carpeting.  Thankfully the front-of-house barroom has a design of its own.

BUON GIORNO AT OTTO

BUON GIORNO OTTO

Reminiscent of a price of viagra train station by way of Italy, stand-at-only counters populate a polished space anchored by a long wide white marble bar. Shelves stocked with wine are a backdrop of the bar packed with regulars and attended by barmen that guard the seats by the kitchen door should Mr. Batali pop-in to hold court. These keepers-of-Mario can be a bit gruff – almost as if they were protective childhood pals – in these otherwise welcoming environs.  Even still, they know they’re stuff and are easy to ignore with all the comforts of this bar – the day’s New York Times and Daily News strewn about,  the paper-wrapped crusty bread and, of course, the simple yet immensely satisfying arrives-in-no-time-flat you’re-in-Italy fare.

No doubts about it, the bar is the star at OTTO, NYC.

OTTO, One Fifth Avenue, Greenwich Village, New York City, Tel. 212-995-9559

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