Sunday, October 5, 2008

Pardon My French But Let Me Speak Italian... Trattoria Zero Otto Nove on Arthur Ave.

It might not appear that I've been eating based on the lack of food posts, but the amount of R&D I've been putting in over the last several months would challenge the best of them. With that, I bring you one of the best treats to come out of the Bronx in the last couple of years, Trattoria Zero Otto Nove in the Arthur Ave. neighborhood.

Located smack dab in the middle of Arthur Ave. between 187th St. and Crescent Ave., Zero Otto Nove is the casual offshoot of Roberto, arguably the finest Italian restaurant in the 5 boroughs. It should be noted that each time I've eaten here, twice, Roberto was the primary destination. But due to the almost regular hour wait (no reservations) and being closed on Sundays, 089 served as the fall back. Don't get it twisted though, this isn't a safe alternative. Aside from Roberto, 089 should be the main attraction on Arthur Ave.

It is necessary that you order a pizza from the brick oven operating in the cavernous dining area. This is some of the best pizza in the NYC. On my first trip we ordered the Margherita- San Marzano tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, and basil on a toothy crust. The sweetness from the tomato sauce intertwined with the small dollops of fresh mozzarella and basil- and add that to the char on the crust, you forget how delicious pizza can be when done properly. You're table is 17' from the oven tops, so if you're waiter has 2 broken legs and has to crawl to your table, it's still smoking. On an average night you have a choice of 15 selections ranging from $12 to $17.

On the 2nd trip we ordered the special of the day which was the margherita with pancetta- beautifully cured slices of pork belly. Take my description above, add the salty factor, and we're in a new universe. The pizza alone is worth the trip.

On the first trip our appetizers were a grilled calamari special with sliced cherry tomatoes and basil- not one tough bite, characterizing the freshness of the ingredients- and an insalata caprino e pera, or as we like to call it, a salad consisting of goat cheese, sliced pear and mixed greens. Bananas- I know I said pears, but this was bananas. Creamy goat cheese with the crisp sweet pear. This might be a fairly common option at other restaurants, but Roberto and his staff take it to the next level. I regret to inform you that I have no pics of these dishes. Hopefully my words painted a clear enough picture.

All of the apps on the second trip were daily specials. One being sliced dry sausage with cannellini beans cooked with tomato. After having a sausage appetizer at Roberto in the winter, I fully trusted Roberto's preparation of sausage, pause.

The second was ditalini with peas, tomato, and thinly chopped slices of prosciutto topped with mozzarella and baked.

The third was a baby clam dish, served with tomatoes and if I recall correctly, served in some sort of wine broth. It was delicious, as was the sausage dish and the pasta dish- cooked al dente with the blend of flavors. Only complaint was that these should have been served in entree-sized portions.

I'm sure the pizza with an appetizer or 2, and of course several Peronis, is enough for a normal stomach. But glutton is as glutton does. So onto the main dishes or Secondi Piatti, though it's more like Quinto Piatti. That's some real pardon my French, but let me speak Italian shit right there.

On the first trip I had to go in and get the Zuppa De Pesce. Knowing the seafood was fresh I'd have been foolish not to. Clams, muscles, shrimp, crab, calamari, octopus, and a white fish in a mellow tomato sauce. Served in a crock pot, this meal fed me for 3 days.

Other entrees from the first meal included a pork osso bucco served with a cannellini bean risotto- a huge shank of fall off the bone swine- and a sole special cooked in a liquidy tomato sauce with clams and muscles.

Rabbit was devoured on the second trip. Charred tender bunny in a spicy tomato sauce. I rarely do rabbit, but as expected this was good. I'm not such a fan of the taste and texture of rabbit so I doubt I'll be having it again. As you can see below it looks like chicken, but not quite the same.

One thing that Zero Otto Nove incorporates into their menu that I wish more restaurants in NYC did is local ingredients. Or if not local ingredients, local markets. It is clearly stated on the menu that most ingredients are purchased from the local purveyors on Arthur Ave. The cheese is purchased daily from Casa della Mozzarella, meat from Biancardi's, and fish from Cosenza's. The quality is evident in each dish. As an Italian implant, Roberto is used to the finest and freshest ingredients from his hometown of Salerno (area code 089, thus the name). It's extremely refreshing that he's bringing this mentality to American soil.

Zero Otto Nove has a small bar in the front with a flat screen or 2 to watch some Italian football- I'm so European. A long hallway takes you to the dining area which has around 12 - 15 tables on the main floor and several more tables in an elevated loft area. Efforts were made to give the feel of a small Italian village and overall they succeeded. As mentioned earlier, the brick oven is in the corner by the stairs and blends in with the brick and stone.

Over the years I've eaten at a lot of Arthur Ave. restaurants, and while others serve some very good food, Zero Otto Nove takes things to the next level. I definitely consider it a destination restaurant, but rather than just coming to the Boogie solely for a meal, head to the Bronx Zoo or Botanical Gardens during the day and cap it off with a little trip to the Bronx's own Salerno. Just look for a Vespa and the original Mini Cooper from the 70's on Arthur Ave.'s sidewalk and you're good to go.

Zero Otto Nove
2357 Arthur Ave.
Bronx, NY 10458
(718) 220-1027

Tuesday to Thursday 4.30pm – 10pm
Friday and Saturday 4.30pm - 11 pm
Sunday 1pm – 9pm


buckemdown said...

Damn son, got my mouth watering something serious right now. Thankfully, I was able to participate in both of these trips to Roberto's more casual Trattoria outpost. I am in agreeance that Roberto's is one of the top Italian restaurants that I've ever been to, and I'm also in agreeance that this sister restaurant is no slouch. Admittedly not Roberto status, Zero Otto Nove is a more than respectable alternative. The availability of pizza gives it a one up on Roberto's too. All of the above mentioned food was off the hook though. And maybe it was the 6 24oz. Peronis enjoyed at the Yankee game, but I'd like to attribute the fact that I actually ate rabbit (and enjoyed it) to the respect that I have for Roberto. Not sure I would've made that decision anywhere else.

HowFresh said...

You need to drop a roofey in Buck's drink to make him eat rabbit.

buckemdown said...

Damn - I knew I shouldn't have left my Peroni alone with you when I went to the bathroom