Otto: Pizzas for the Topping Enthusiast
A hip new Portland-born pizza joint arrives in Coolidge Corner.
I have to be upfront about something here: I was on my way to another Coolidge Corner eatery when the delicious smells wafting out of Otto yanked me through the doors like some puppeteer was holding my strings.
Boston-area Otto enthusiasts will be familiar with the tiny, standing-room-only Harvard Square location, selling slices for immediate face-stuffing gratification as well as whole pies for takeaway. But the story begins in 2009, when Otto co-owners Anthony Allen and Mike Keon joined forces to open the 3-stool-capacity flagship location in Portland, Maine. The following year, they opened Otto 225 in Portland, while simultaneously scouting the Harvard Square spot.
Otto’s fourth location, the 60-seat Coolidge Corner site, opened a mere six weeks ago on May 25th, and according to Allen, it’s already the top performer. “The spot was an obvious choice for us,” he says about the former Friendly’s location.
It’s still a friendly place, with an easy, open vibe reminiscent of Portland’s companionable beer culture. A well-staffed bar serves five-dollar drafts of beers like Smuttynose Brown Dog, as well as wine in stemless glasses. There’s almost always a crowd, and along with it, a wait for a table of half an hour or more.
Pizzas are crowned with the imaginative toppings that draw Otto’s fans, like butternut squash and herbed ricotta with cranberries. Allen says this combination was “pooh-poohed” at first suggestion; now, it’s one of their best-selling offerings. I can see why--the savory slice is cast with an elegant sweetness, and the crust is thin and crispy.
Cracked black pepper and asiago cheese, which comprise the flavor base of every round on the menu, shine in the pulled pork and mango. The result is a snappy, peppery slice with a delightful sweet-savory contrast. The only complaint is that there’s too little of that delicious pork to go around.
Genoa salami, tomato, and scallion is a surprising topping combination that really works, buoyed by a deliriously tomato-y red sauce. On Sundays, ask for a fried egg, which arrives, yolk jiggling gloriously, in the center of this pie.
A mozzarella and cherry tomato salad is dressed with basil and a tart oregano-lemon vinaigrette. The menu description is beguiling--one assumes it’s a caprese salad, but it’s a mesclun mix with caprese-style garnishes.
Allen is adamant that Otto’s isn’t a luxurious indulgence. “We’re not a gourmet pizza shop, we’re an everyday pizza shop,” he says. “We just think about the ingredients, and about how to treat them in a way that will make your eyes widen a little bit.”
Consider my eyes widened.
Otto in Coolidge Corner is open Monday through Saturday, 11:00am-11:00pm, and Sunday 10:00am-11:00pm. 289 Harvard Street, Brookline. Slices $3-3.50; whole pies $9-21. 617-232-0014; ottoportland.com. MBTA: Green line (C) to Coolidge Corner.