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Week of January 13, 2002

Otto Enoteca Pizzeria
The last time Mario Batali flipped pizza dough for a living, it was as an ambitious dishwasher turned pieman at a place called Stuff Yer Face in New Brunswick, New Jersey. “Funny guy, very confident,” recalls Bill Washawanny, his old boss. “He wore shorts.” Now, after a lot of wasted years spent creating hugely successful restaurants, taping cooking shows, and winning accolades, Batali is back in the pizza business (and still in those shorts). Otto Enoteca Pizzeria opened last week, revealing itself to be by far the simplest, cheapest, most casual restaurant in the Batali empire, from its one-page menu to its bustling 180 seats, all bare painted-wood tables and ruddy walls.

With meals that focus on individual-size pizzas and finish with spectacularly smooth gelati, it’s also Batali’s foray into family dining, albeit with several distinctive twists. Kids will love the place, even if they can’t be persuaded to finish their vegetable antipasti, little $4 ramekins full of salsify spears or caper-strewn cauliflower alla Siciliana. Other pre-pizza bites—which may be ordered in the barroom along with quartinos of wine and consumed standing up at marble-topped tables—evoke Lupa and Babbo in their assortment of testa, coppa, octopus, and an especially tender lime-and-olive-oil-cured swordfish. There is a different bruschetta, fritto (fried food), and pizza every day; the daily pizzas are named after the Otto offspring, the seven children of the four partners, who also lay claim to a permanently reserved table. The nineteen everyday pies—all lavash-thin and, in a break with tradition, cooked on a flattop griddle—are divided into Otto and Classica categories, the former imbued with delicious Bataliana like shaved bottarga and lardo (or pork fatback, also known as pure cholesterol). Otto opens at 9 a.m. for mortadella panini and blood-orange juice, serves nonstop until 11:30 p.m., and doesn’t deliver or take reservations for parties smaller than seven. Prepare to wait—or befriend a junior Batali. — ROB PATRONITE
1 Fifth Avenue

· Cuisine: Pizza, Italian

Cassis means “black currant” in French, and it’s the name of a fishing village outside Marseilles. It’s also catchy and easy to remember—which is why partners Evelyne Gaidot and Fabrice Dinonno chose it when they converted the former Stone Street Tavern into the new Cassis. (The similar-sounding Pastis, after all, has done well by Keith McNally.) They’ve given the pubby premises a face-lift and scheduled tri-yearly art exhibits by local painters and photographers. Dinonno, a native Marseillais, is a veteran of Bouterin, Jubilée, and most recently Les Halles Downtown, where he snagged chef Maurice Hurley to reprise classics like pâté, moules marinières, and (obviously) steak-frites. Financial-district resident and first-time restaurateur Gaidot padded the wine list with affordable bottles from small producers, and is eagerly anticipating next summer, when she can put her sidewalk permit to canine-friendly use. “The waiter will bring the dog water, first thing.
52 Stone Street

· Cuisine: French

Thomas Beisl
Before Danube, before Wallsé, before Cafe Sabarsky, there was Vienna ’79 and its wunderkind chef, Thomas Ferlesch. After an eleven-year run at Café des Artistes, Ferlesch decamped for Brooklyn, where he’s turned Fort Greene’s old New City Bar & Grill into Thomas Beisl (beisl means “bistro”). “Everyone knows what a trattoria is and what a cantina is,” says Ferlesch, determined to be the one to incorporate the beisl and its socially inclusive spirit into the American idiom. “I picture this as a place where a plumber is at the bar and a doctor is sitting down to dinner”—or, presumably, vice versa. Given the artsy locale, though, it’s more apt to appeal to the avant-garde pretheater crowd en route to bam and dancers on break from the Mark Morris studio up the street—all of them feasting with egalitarian fervor on chicken-liver terrine with kumquat-cranberry compote, Wiener schnitzel with parsley potatoes, and beef goulash with spaetzle. Even if you know nothing else about Viennese restaurants, you know they’re not the place to skip dessert, and Ferlesch’s include palatchinken, cheese strudel, and Linzer torte (mit schlag).
25 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn

· Cuisine: Viennese

Openings Archive

Week of January 6
Fada, Five Front, Don Don Ya, M J Grill, Noi Cafe, Pisticci
Week of December 31
Jefferson, Peep
Week of December 16
Gobo, Perbacco

and more ...

Photos: Bruce Katz (1st & 3rd), Patrik Rytikangas.

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