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For a Light Meal on Lexington Avenue: “Ottomanelli NY Grill"

Whenever I am asked what my favorite places are to eat in NYC I always draw a blank. Sure I eat at plenty of places but would I return? I always have another long list of places to try so for me to return to a locale not out of mere convenience but out of longing…well that is something special. So is Ottomanelli NY Grill.

Ottomanelli is a little gem on the Upper East Side of Manhattan coincidentally right near another favorite location of mine; 92Y (see previous post). That is how I found myself chowing down here.

The very first time was a few years ago. I was in the neighborhood, you can guess why, and I needed something quick to eat. I split a burger with my date for the evening and I was quite satisfied but managed to forget the name of the restaurant.

Then last year upon a date to see a Cooper and a Vanderbilt and I stumbled in once again. That evening I had an insatiable craving for fried calamari, a classic Italian appetizer. You can say that Ottomanelli hit the nail on the head.

It is by far and wide the very best I have ever had in my life. I gobbled it all up switching between dipping it in their marinara and cajun sauces. It was a moment of pure food ecstasy. One I would crave for an entire year until I sat down there again.

The only other time I had an order of calamari come in close competition with what I had experienced at Ottomanelli’s was during a visit to nearby Tre Otto (  

I don’t think the “Otto” in the names are serendipitous. I believe there is something more to it than that. 

Upon my return visit to Ottomanelli this past week I had eagerly been awaiting my favorite meal. The only thing I varied was that this time I went for the house salad unlike the Caesar salad I had last time. 

When I took my first bite I was rewarded with the light, crispy, sweet and spicy (from the sauces) flavors I remembered. I also had seemingly forgotten how huge the portions are here. The calamari went by in a flash but there was some salad left on the dish. Overall I was happy to be in a familiar place with familiar tastes in my mouth. 

The Ottomanelli family has been making their handmade traditional Italian meats and products in NYC for over one hundred years. The current owners are the second generation of this family to work the business. Brothers Frank, Gerry, Peter, and Joseph have worked in the business their whole lives beginning their training as  young children.  

The Ottomanelli’s are originally from Bari, in Southern Italy. This town is also home from my ancestors. Coincidence? I think not.

The family business all began when the founding father, Onofrio, began to make his mother’s famous lamb sausage, which he then had passed down to Frank who still makes this recipe daily. The family’s main store remains on Bleecker Street in Lower Manhattan but has expanded to include several other locations, as well as another restaurant. 

The next member of the family set to take on the throne is Matthew who is so far the only member of his generation to step up to the plate, the meat plate that is.

While I have not visited any of the Ottomanelii shops, I can tell just from the excellent service and high quality of food I have experienced at their restaurant, that whenever I have the need for a piece of the old country I know where to find it.

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