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Zagat: Sotto 13 Heats Up West Village With Italian Cooked in a Wood Burning Oven

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A wood fire cooking trend is heating up New York City restaurants, including at West Village’s Sotto 13. Zagat’s James Mulcahy filed the following report.

Sotto 13
140 W. 13th St.
New York, NY 10011
212-647-1001

Former Top Chef contestant Ed Cotton is at the helm West Village restaurant Sotto 13. And a number of dishes on the large Italian menu are prepared in a gigantic wood burning oven, which guests can see as they walk into the back dining room.

"When you walk in through the door, the first thing that should hit you is kind of that wood smell. I utilize that oven as much as possible with anything and everything from roasted rabbit sausage to pancetta and garlic roasted snails,” said Cotton, Sotto 13’s executive chef.

A growing number of restaurants around New York City are making room for hearths and ovens that burn wood. While they do take up valuable real estate in small kitchens, they connect both the chef and the diner to the cooking process.

"It is more of an all natural kind of way to eat. I think the fire, it’s mesmerizing, too. You stare into the flames and you're watching your whatever it is cook. It's just a fun way to eat,” said Cotton.

At Sotto 13, invented pizzas and dishes like roasted snails are heated up in the hearth, which is constantly stoked with wood that is delivered to the restaurant.

"We call them sexy spots in the oven. It starts over here then gradually rotates to the other side of the oven. Our pizza guys build the fire more on one side and less on one side. There's definitely an art and a science into working with a pizza oven," Cotton said.

In the era of molecular gastronomy and high end gadgets this wood fire trend takes us back to a time when simplicity was the most delicious thing of all.

Mulcahy: This is the octopi, which definitely gets bonus points for the name. Really great. I love when pizzas are cooked in wood ovens because the dough gets so light and fluffy. It's not like a New York slice it's something completely different. It's unfortunate that New York City restaurants don't have more room because more of them should have these wood fire ovens.

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