The last stop on the main drag of Chester doesn’t play around. The three story dark gray townhouse has a distinguished and storied feel to it. In the height of Autumn, with the wind rustling dead leaves across the sidewalk, and up and over the dual picnic tables that lay in front of it, the building can look downright spooky. Yet the red and yellow letters adorning the storefront spelling out — O-T-T-O — signal that everything will be just fine, you’re about to eat the best pizza on the Connecticut Shoreline.
The open wood fire oven is central to the small space and patrons can view everything that is going on behind the counter from almost anywhere in the restaurant. The burning embers quite literally light the room. It’s interior can feel cramped, but really in the best way possible — think bustling, not claustrophobic. The entire atmosphere is convivial and unpretentious, even if the pizza you’re having is extraordinary. If you travel there on the weekends there will likely be a line, but nothing too egregious, and with the Pattaconk a few buildings down, just leave your number with the hostess and grab a pint there. Waits tend to be 20-30 minutes long so if you’re in this predicament, rush to the Pattaconk and fly through that first beer, so you can nab a second before your number is called and you’re ready to be seated.
There are three things that make Otto sublime. The first is their fennel salad. Yup its a pizza review and I’m starting off with a fennel salad. Don’t give a shit, just order it. Mint, parsley, lemon, parmesan, walnuts — it’s ridiculously good. Fennel is a great source of B-6 vitamins too, which are the vitamins that are ravaged and depleted when you rage. Vegetables and hangover prevention in one dish — no big deal. Also, females love this salad. My wife will go to Otto with me just for the salad or at least thats what she tells herself. Either way I get to justify ordering three pizzas for two people once we arrive for you know, REASONS, but the point is I got my wife there. And if I got my wife there, there’s no stopping me from ordering too much food and overeating. Ask for the fennel salad, eat it, share it, prevent hangovers, secure pizza for the next day, and a probable trip back in the future. It’s a good deal.
The second thing that is badass about Otto is the dough. It’s the foundation of any great pizza, but it’s about perfect here. The crust has a slight char, is airy, and chewy. You will never have an overly doughy bite and there is just a tiny bit of crisp at the end. The pies at Otto are just exceptionally balanced and tasty.
The variety of pizza and the unique ingredients dispatched at Otto are also tremendous. Scamorza, stracciatella, and ndjua aren’t mainstays at most pizzerias, but they are here. Combine these with the house made sausage and high quality pancetta and prosciutto and there is an authenticity to the pies. Yet it’s not the just the ingredients that are special, it’s the creativity of their offerings too. Here are some examples:
- pepperoni with fresh mozzarella, scamorza, chilies, rosemary + garlic
- four cheese with pancetta, mushrooms, arugula + rosemary
marinara with black olives, garlic, chilies, herbs + anchovies
egg with bacon, potato, thyme, ricotta + grana padano
Otto’s menu is also beautifully simple and straight-forward. They have ten pizzas, four salads, and two side dishes —what they do, they do really fucking well and don’t overcomplicate what works. Like a great brewery or high-end restaurant, Otto is adept at tweaking their menu — side dishes, some pies, and salads are often rotated on and off the menu — without neutering their best offerings. This adds up to a dining experience that is often familiar, but with enough changes to keep it fresh.
Strengths: First-Rate Pizza / Service is strong — an attentive, knowledgeable, & playful staff / Location / Creative and Concise Menu
Weaknesses: Take-Out Pizza can lose luster / Expensive
Tips: Trust the servers for recommendations on pies and wine if you’re indecisive. Grab a pint at the Pattaconk if there’s a wait on the weekend.
FEAST: The pepperoni with fresh mozzarella, scamorza, chilies, rosemary + garlic is absurd. It’s my favorite pizza in Connecticut.
FROTH: Wine list is accessible. They usually have a quality craft beer on draught too. If it’s a nice night, go with the wine. Your server can steer you in the right direction.
FEAST: 10/10 – FROTH: 7/10 – PIZZA: 10/10