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Nightlife: Trivia Night at Otto’s Pizza

Teams compete for gift card, merchandise each Tuesday

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Do you know who was Time magazine’s Man of the Year in 1940 and again in 1949? Or which National League team pitcher Roger Clemens was playing for when he won a Cy Young Award? If so, consider heading over to Otto’s Pizza tonight for Stump Trivia Night, held every Tuesday from 8 to 10 p.m.

We stopped by recently to test our wits, arriving just in time to hear the rules of the game. The eatery wasn’t crowded, and only three teams of six or fewer players had registered.

The trivia evening consists of four rounds, each featuring four questions, followed by a bonus question or activity. In the odd rounds, answers are assigned 1, 3, 5, or 7 points and in the even rounds, 2, 4, 6, or 8 points. In other words, teams have four questions and four point values per round, so team members choose which value they want to assign each question, presumably based on how confident they are about the answer. Categories include movies, sports, literature, and world history. Answers should be kept to the table, and laptops and cell phones are strictly prohibited. The first place team wins a $40 Otto’s Pizza gift card, and the second and third place teams win merchandise from Portland brewing company Rising Tide, which sponsors the weekly event.

Of course, no one comes to Otto’s just for the trivia. The eatery, based Portland, Maine, opened in 2009 and now has 10 locations there and in Massachusetts. (The Comm Ave Otto’s opened in 2012.) Famous for its mashed potato, bacon, and scallion pizza—named one of Food Network’s 50 best pizzas in the country—Otto’s has earned a reputation for combining unorthodox ingredients and flavors, among them spicy pulled pork and scallion; Kalamata olive, red pepper, garlic, and Asiago cheese; roasted chicken, caramelized pears, and fontina cheese; and spinach, white beans, and roasted garlic. The result: surprisingly delicious pizza.

We ordered before the trivia event began, and so we could taste as much as we could, we chose five slices with different toppings, each $3.50 (a plain slice is $3). Each was excellent. Among the standouts: the aforementioned mashed potato, bacon, and scallion lived up to its hype—the crisp bacon meshed extraordinarily well with the surprisingly light mashed potatoes and scallions. Our personal favorite was the ricotta and basil: tangy ricotta, soggy but vibrant tomatoes, with a sweet punch courtesy of the fresh basil. The pulled pork and mango exploded with spice, and the melted mango offset the other ingredients’ sharp flavors, making for a pleasurable slice. The thin and crispy Neapolitan-style crust is the ideal finishing touch.

If you’re with a large group, it may be wiser (and more economical) to order a whole pie. A small (12-inch) cheese pie is $10 ($1 for each topping), and a large (16-inch) cheese pie is $15 ($2 for each topping).

Otto’s offers bottled soda and homemade iced tea, lemonade, and half-and-half (a combo of iced tea and lemonade) for $2.50 each. Guests can also choose from a variety of domestic and imported wine, beer, and other alcoholic beverages. Again, if you’re with a bigger party, think about ordering a pitcher of beer ($9 to $22).

Otto Pizza

Kevin Murphy (left) hosts Otto Pizza’s Stump Trivia on Tuesday nights.

When we’d sufficiently fueled up, the trivia game began. Round one (each round lasts about 20 minutes) was relatively easy. We answered the Time Man of the Year question accurately (Winston Churchill) and nailed the bonus question: host Kevin Murphy listed an author’s biographical info, and we guessed Charles Dickens, correctly. Round two moved quickly, and again we got the bonus answer right: Murphy provided hints about a movie and we had to come up with the title (ET). We found ourselves in second place heading into the fourth and final round. Only one point behind the leaders, we were feeling confident. We were spot-on with answers to questions about the middle period of the Mesozoic Era and the team NFL quarterback Drew Brees played for prior to joining the New Orleans Saints (San Diego Chargers). At the end of the fourth round, we were still one point behind.

We weren’t ready to concede defeat. There was still the matter of the final bonus question of the night. The rules allow you to bet up to 10 points for that final bonus question, but if you miss, you lose the full number of points you bet.

Playfully ratcheting up the suspense, Murphy asked which 1988 Oscar-winning film included a performance by Keanu Reeves. We took an educated guess, wrote down Parenthood, and bet 10 points—the maximum.

Moments later, Murphy announced over the microphone: Dangerous Liaisons.

Cheers from the winning team, a frustrated thump on the table from one of our team. Despite the heartbreak (we finished with 106 points, the victors with 107), the event was a blast, a fun-filled emotional roller-coaster. While we were passionate throughout the game, the other teams were more laid-back, smiling and drinking beer. Murphy mirrored this casual attitude, playing urban rock and soft hip-hop over the speakers while announcing the rules and answers in a relaxed manner.

Alas, we were so close to scoring that $40 Otto’s gift card—we’re already plotting our next visit.

Otto Pizza, 888 Commonwealth Ave., Brookline, Mass., is open Sunday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to midnight, and Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 3 a.m. You can call ahead at 617-232-0447 to place an order. The restaurant also delivers, with no minimum or fee, and accepts Visa, MasterCard, and Discover, but not American Express. Take an MBTA Green Line B trolley to St. Paul Street or walk. Otto Pizza’s other Boston-area locations: 238 Harvard St., Coolidge Corner, Brookline, and 1432 Mass. Ave., Harvard Square, Cambridge.

This is part of a weekly series featuring Boston nightlife spots of interest to the BU community. If you have any suggestions for places we should feature, leave them in the Comment section below.

Emmanuel Gomez can be reached at mannygo@bu.edu.

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