Without any planning or research, we stopped by the famed Arthur Ave on the way back from a sweaty and ape-filled day at the Bronx Zoo. A last minute rec came over the FaceBook wire, directed to the missus (the one of us who has friends), suggesting we eat at Zero Otto Nove. A message no doubt along the lines of "OMG it's to die for." Hard to argue with that type of feedback.
They hadn't yet opened when we arrived at 4 pm, so we killed some time walking around, primarily trying to find a restroom. Can't say I was paying much attention to anything else on this first trip to Arthur Ave.
At 5 pm we went back to Zero Otto Nove, and, incredibly, the place was packed. I think we snagged the last table.
We were escorted down the long corridor to the back room, which is two stories high, and has a skylight, making it very bright and airy room. It's got that "just like Italy" feel. That is, if everyone in Italy wears Yankees jerseys and Italian walls have painted stairways and windows. Come on, just joshin'. It's a pleasant enough space with painted walls, and Yankees fans are simply dandy by any standard that I can come up with.
Some quick googling yielded a very dubious claim about the pizza at Zero Otto Nove. One of the NYC food critics made a claim that it was the best Neapolitan pizza in New York City. Unlikely, I thought. The reviewer didn't seem to understand Neapolitan pizza, it seemed to me. Granted, this review was a few years ago, before the explosion of very good Neapolitan pizza places opened, but at the very least, Una Pizzeria Napoletana was already open in the east village at that point, and it no doubt had better Neapolitan pizza, I can easily claim at this point.
That's not to say the pizza wasn't quite good. Hell it was exceptional compared to most of the stuff that you find at Italian restaurants.
We generally order a Margherita, which is the baseline pie. Sauce, cheese, basil, a little EVOO, and not much else. But I wanted to give this place a running start, so we ordered a pie with pancetta and grated cheese. Pancetta, any cured pork product for that matter, can go a long way to save a pizza. Or a burger. Or fill-in-the-blank.
The missus thought the crust had a good, developed flavor, whereas I didn't get much of that. There wasn't much in the way of ovenspring, so the cornicione (the outer crust, which you'd expect to be puffy and pillowy) wasn't very well formed. A bit flat and dense for my taste.
I think the pies were coming out of the oven in about 90 seconds or so. The bottom crust had some nice crisp and char.
The toppings were just what I was hoping they'd be, and overall the pie was enjoyable. But it certainly is not the best version of Neapolitan pizza in NYC.
We also had the baby (awwwww, look how cute!) octopus in red sauce. Very tender octopuses, in an herbed tomato sauce that was more cooked down than it was fresh and bright (not a criticism, but rather, my expectations were out of whack). Quite excellent, although my first bite tasted a bit more of the sea than I would prefer.
The real star of this meal was the linguine with calamari and seppia. Holy hanna was this a good dish.
When we ordered dish, the server made it a point to tell us that it's black. I'm sure many people are horrified when they get a bowl of black pasta, so this is no doubt necessary to ensure everyone is happy.
Well, I kinda figured the pasta would be black, but the sauce would be a bit reddish from tomatoes. It wasn't. The whole dish was black, with a squid ink based sauce. In fact I think the pasta itself was just regular.
When I saw this thing of beauty I could really see how a family in Yankees jerseys would be horrified if they received this dish. That's not to say Yankees fans aren't worldly and very much have chicken finger and Bud Light taste, because that wouldn't be fair; all sports fans do.
Al dente pasta, tender cuttlefish and calamari, squid ink, done. I'd return to Zero Otto Nove just for this dish.
Arthur Ave is about 6 minutes from the GWB. So get your backwoods vacationing-at-the-Jersey-Shore Real Housewives-watching K-Mart-shopping Cake-Boss-eating sports-jersey-wearing asses over to Arthur Ave, and live a little.
Zero Otto Nove : 2357 Arthur Ave : Bronx, NY