Otto Enoteca Pizzeria
In a town where all-you-can-eat buffets are an institution and few scoff at paying $18 for a sushi roll, restaurant options, though plentiful, often prioritize drama and showmanship over crafting reasonably priced, tasty fare. Some of the world’s most renowned chefs have set up outposts in Las Vegas – including Alain Ducasse, Guy Savoy and Gordon Ramsay – making the Vegas strip one of the highest concentrations of fine dining establishments in the world. Yet unless you’re a comped gambler, many of these places remain out of reach and sometimes a quiet meal with friends is the ideal antidote to the onslaught of visual stimulation that is the Vegas experience. This is why Mario Batali’s Otto Enoteca Pizzeria is such a revelation and we enjoyed two meals at this casual Italian spot during a recent sojourn in Sin City. While the restaurant’s location in the heart of the Venetian’s bustling St. Mark’s Square is hardly an off-the-beaten-track destination, there’s something about this restaurant that feels more New York than Vegas.
We’ve been fans of the Otto Enoteca in New York’s Greenwich Village for years and we were thrilled to find the same simple, yet expertly prepared, Italian staples on offer in Vegas. The well-crafted menu, though not overwhelmingly large, is the sort that makes ordering a seemingly insurmountable task as you literally want to try one of everything. The antipasti selection which is divided into cured meats, vegetables and fried delights offers something for even the most discerning palette, and is best enjoyed shared. We sampled the mixed olives which far exceeded our expectations; these plump and flavourful morsels were skillfully marinated and the selection of varietals was visually appealing and unique. The salads are prepared with an eye for freshness and simplicity. The basic pairing of arugula with a heap of shaved Parmesan was exquisite; the greens were tossed in a light olive oil and lemon juice dressing that was the perfect compliment to the peppery vegetable. Other highlights included the Octopus Salad – which was surprisingly tender and enjoyed in tandem with potatoes and celery – and the Caprese comprised of decadent, melt-in-your-mouth burrata and oven roasted tomatoes.
While Otto features a number of heartier mains like Steak Tagliata and Braised Pork Shoulder, we limited our selections to the pizza and pasta offerings which were too delectable to ignore. The Pesto pizza is not for the faint of heart; the thin crust is smothered with substantial servings of rich, garlicky pesto and creamy ricotta cheese and the combination is decadent. We also enjoyed the Maccherona pasta, which was tossed in a fresh chili and garlic sauce and smothered with cherry tomatoes, and the Bavette – a classic Roman dish. Notoriously difficult to make, with only four ingredients – pasta, Pecorino, olive oil and a generous amount of black pepper – the Bavette was spectacular in its simplicity. Otto also updates the classic pesto, potato and green bean pairing by using whole wheat pasta as the base which makes for a surprisingly robust dish. While the wine list is well curated, offering a number of interesting selections from Italy, we found the price point to be disproportionately high when compared to the food and opted to share a bottle of prosecco instead. This reasonably priced bubbly delight perfectly offset the richness of the food.
In an environment where more is always better and excess and gluttony are the norm, Otto Enoteca Pizzeria is a refreshing alternative. Despite the fact that you enjoy your meal on a faux terrasse under a trompe l’oeil sky, the exquisite flavours and the shocking simplicity of the dishes feel very un-Vegas in the best possible way.