I had a special visitor on Christmas Eve.
Santa, perhaps? Nah. New York doesn't quake quite so much when Old Saint Nick is headed to town.
The holidays brought none other than Mama Vamp to my threshold. And, to mark the occasion we left the borough of Brooklyn and headed to Greenwich Village to Otto for a traditional Italian repast. I'd made the reservation a month ago, knowing that the fare at Batali's low-priced enoteca and pizzeria was delicious and kitchen consistent -- a great combo. However, one look at the tiny, edged in table that was proffered by the hostess and Mama Vamp turned heel.
We may be Jewish and this may not be our official holiday, but that didn't mean we were to be shunted into a corner. Baby wouldn't go there and neither would Mama Vamp.
Happily, though, we settled into my favorite part of the whole restaurant -- the marble-topped bar -- and quickly made our presence known by ordering up glasses of bubbly. One sip and Mama Vamp was in good form. A few bites into our antipasti of walnut topped Roasted Autumn Vegetables con Aceto, a crisp salad of Escarole and Sunchoke, and a platter of house-made Coppa, and she was downright jolly.
Then there was the cheese...The Coach Farm Triple Cream was a particular favorite, soft and buttery, and the perfect foil for the accompaniment of Stewed Apricots with Chili Flakes.
We bypassed a special Christmas Eve Italian classic -- The Feast of the Seven Fishes -- but couldn't resist ordering a plate of the night's special pasta, a Rigatoni dish laden with a sauce of hearty stewed meat and tomatoes, graced with fresh herbs and enough grated Parmesan to induce joyful humming with every forkful.
It took a bit of convincing, but in her blissful state, I was able to get Mama Vamp to agree to share Otto's famous Olive Oil Coppetta (pictured above) for dessert. The combination is bizarre, but irresistible: rich Olive Oil Gelato served with Lemon Curd, sugary slices of Kumquats and crisp Fennel Brittle.
As we both exited out of Otto's revolving door, I could have sworn I heard Mama Vamp say "Grazie! Buon Natale!"
Then again, it might have just been something less endearing in Yiddish.