Archive for the Zero Otto Nove (Bronx) Category

Zero Otto Nove

Posted in Zero Otto Nove (Bronx) on January 3, 2009 by jaydel818
Zero Otto Nove
2357 Arthur Avenue
Bronx, New York 10458

5-second summary:

Price Range–  Pizzas $12-17, Dinner entrees $15-26 (at time of posting)
Ambiance Cozy, warm, friendly, with old-world European decor
Cuisine- Southern Italian
Hits- Pizza crust to die for, perfectly cooked pastas, fresh local Arthur Avenue market flavor
Misses- Entrees are not as strong as the pizza and pasta (or the owner’s other restaurants)

Disaster narrowly averted!

Just two days shy of a dinner date with my high school friend Valerie, I developed a wicked winter cold.  We had agreed to dine at Zero Otto Nove, the newest  of the Paciullo family’s Arthur Avenue vicinity restaurants.  Italian for “089,” Zero Otto Nove is the area code for Salerno, the Paciullo family city of origin.  Since the Paciullos own two of my all-time favorite eateries, Roberto’s and Tino’s, I was eager beyond words to try this trattoria, but with an hour to spare before dinner, the outlook was grim.  I hadn’t been able to smell or taste a thing all day (truly one of the greatest punishments ever visited on mankind).  Desperately clawing through the medicine chest, I found relief in two orange gelcaps.  I’m not sure what magic fairy dust the good people at DayQuil sprinkled into them, but within an hour the gourmet gods had miraculously restored my olfactory sense.

A relative newbie to the Arthur Avenue scene, Zero Otto Nove opened in October 2007.  With customary Belmont neighborhood interdependence, all of the meat served is fresh from long-established local butcher Biancardi’s, and the seafood is purchased daily from the landmark Cosenza’s Fish Market.  Head chef Roberto Paciullo bottles his own incredible, fruity, and flavorful olive oil, which is served and available for purchase at both Roberto’s and Zero Otto Nove.  The bread, a treat rarely paralleled at other Italian restaurants and truly the standard, I believe, is from Madonia Brothers Bakery.

Stepping into Zero Otto Nove, it is clear that the Paciullos learned from their previous Crescent Avenue location and the lack of waiting room.  Crowds pack the space waiting for tables, and both the new Roberto’s and the new trattoria have ample bar space adorned with token Sandro Bottega-esque blown glass grappa containers.  Lead to our table by the hostess, we passed through an arch-ceilinged hallway cemented with a deeply textured, Venetian-plaster-like finish; with its rustic, multi-colored doors, it was reminiscent of an Etruscan tunnel deep beneath a walled, Medieval Italian city.  The entranceway opened into a cavernous space with high ceilings, and a mural painted on the rear wall in warm beiges emulated an Italian strada. Barred primo piano windows flickered in candlelight while faux shuttered windows above them created the storied illusion of a piazza view.  Exposed brick cemented over, Old-World farmhouse tables, and streetlamp-style sconces all lent to an authentic feel.  Val and I were led upstairs to a balcony edged with wrought iron and white pillars, velvety sage-colored curtains, skylights, and exposed white beams.  The simplest of touches, corks piled loosely into wine glasses and vases, spoke with wine pairing promise.

With a variety of appetizer pizzas available, we split the San Mateo, a delicious combination of broccoli rabe and sausage without sauce.  It was the naan-like crust that made the pizza: soft but thin and incredibly chewy.  The broccoli rabe was tempered by chicken stock and perfectly cooked without a trace of bitterness, and it balanced beautifully with the sausage.

In an attempt to keep my cold at bay, I aimed to appease it with a bowl of zuppa di cocozza, a butternut squash soup with a chicken broth base, garlic, pepper, cappelini, and abundant fresh parsley that simply made the dish.  There also seemed to be a touch of cream in the soup, which rounded out the flavor. Although infinitely flavorful, the butternut squash was not pureed to perfect smoothness and had a gritty, lumpy quality.    The capellini, although it provided texture, seemed superfluous.

Each course came with diner quickness, a testament to the growing popularity of the Paciullo restaurants, their expanding fan base, and the need to keep flipping tables.  We both ordered from the chef’s daily specials, a wise strategy I’ve come to employ with implicit trust in Chef Roberto Paciullo.  I have eaten some truly incredible and never-repeated meals (i.e., a butternut squash and blue cheese ravioli) via his specials menus and am always hesitant to miss an opportunity.  Val’s entree was penne with grilled lamb, roasted red pepper, cherry tomatoes, and speck.  It goes without saying that the pasta was perfectly al dente; the lamb had a lovely smokiness, and the sauce was a feather-light mixture of natural red pepper juices and marinara sauce.  The interplay of smoky lamb and salty ham was simple but beautiful.

My entree was a red snapper served in a foil pouch, which was cut open tableside and “poured” onto my plate with its accompanying cherry tomatoes, capers, onions, and black olives.  Regrettably, it was unremarkable and sorely lacking in seasoning.  The fish was tender and buttery in texture, but bland in flavor.  Even the normal singsong of capers was mute, and one of my mouthfuls included an unfortunate mouthful of wayward feather bone.

At the insistence (okay, not too much insistence) of our flirtatious waiter, we relented to dessert.  Val and I shared fragola la romana, strawberries and fresh cream layered with Pavesini biscuits.  The normally very dry, light, sweet, ladyfinger-like cookies were incredibly moist with cream, resulting in a melt-in-your-mouth texture not unlike a tres leches cake.  With three bites each, the confection was gone, and we were scooping the decorative berry syrup onto our forks and recommending the dish to a neighboring table (the members of which, I feel obliged to mention, flattered us by asking if we were Fordham students).

In short, the appetizers, pizza, and pasta delivered with expected style, but the other entree was merely okay. A die-hard Roberto’s aficionado, I felt Zero Otto Nove had the stamp of  but didn’t quite measure up to the hype of its older sibling.  All of which made sense when I was informed that chef and owner Roberto Paciullo still controlled the menu and ingredient choices, but the cooking at Zero Otto Nove was primarily carried out by another chef who had worked under him for 4-5 years.  Exactly. Roberto’s hand was clear in the dinner choices and flavor combinations, but the flavors and textures lacked his consistent appeal… his magic.

The verdict? I’m glad Zero Otto Nove is open.  It is bigger than Roberto’s, has more tables, and clearly addresses the increased demand for “Paciullo-food” on any given night in the Belmont area.  I hope lots of people go there… because that means there just might be a table for me at Roberto’s.