It just so happened that Lien and I supped at Sotto the same day that Jonathan Gold’s glowing review of the restaurant hit news stands. Using his article as our personal crib sheet, we loaded up on lardo, passed on pizza, and saved room for a cannoli. From beginning to end, it was a memorable and delectable meal, one that continues to linger in my mind even though weeks have gone by.
Chefs Steve Samson and Zack Pollack opened Sotto earlier this year along with restaurateur Bill Chait. The two previously worked at Pizzeria Ortica together and established it as one of Orange County’s top restaurants.
Here, at their first Los Angeles restaurant, the focus is on southern Italian fare. The menu includes Neapolitan pizzas, handmade pastas, and lesser-known regional specialties.
My date consulted with the sommelier for her wine pairings this evening, while I reached for the cocktail menu. I started with “Dem Apples,” a perfectly autumnal creation with bourbon, fresh pressed apple, Clear Creek pear eau de vie, fresh lemon, and cassia-infused honey ($12).
The first dish to hit the table was the housemade bread with lardo pestato ($7). The bread was thickly sliced with a dark char around the crust, while the lardo pestato was generously slathered and absolutely luscious. Even though we had five courses coming our way, I could not resist polishing off the entire hunk.
If you’re passionate about good bread and aren’t afraid of lacquering your lips with a little fat, this dish is a must-order.
Following the lardo pestato was the grilled American Wagyu beef tongue ($13). The tongue was topped with a punchy salsa verde and rested on a warm potato and Gaeta olive salad. One bite and it was clear that there was a lot to love on this plate. In addition to the tongue’s tender texture and subtle flavor, the accompaniments were well-balanced and interesting.
Sometime mid-meal, we were gifted a bowl of freshly fried chickpeas that are normally served at the bar. Warm, crispy, and delicate, the garbanzos had a fabulously addictive quality that Lien and I could not get enough of. One bite became two, and so on, and so forth.
The braised lamb neck alla griglia ($14) was a soulful bowlful complete with stewed summer shell beans and dried-cured olives. Even though the neck was quite meaty, it yielded to my fork with ease. Lien liked how the beans had integrity.
Our lone pasta course of the evening was the buckwheat cavati with a pig’s head ragu ($16). From the noodles to the sauce, everything about this dish rubbed me the right way.
By the time the Devil’s Gulch fennel-crusted pork chop with roasted carrots and green beans ($31) came on the scene, I was utterly stuffed. Thankfully, my dining companion was ready for a hit of protein and dug in like a champ.
Lien found the crust’s flavor spot on and the meat properly juicy. Her only complaint was that the chop’s ratio of fat to meat was skewed toward the former. Fat isn’t usually a problem for her, but in this case she just wanted more meat.
To finish, we shared the cannoli Siciliani ($6). Pipped with ricotta cheese and accented with orange marmalade and pistachios, the cannoli satisfied our collective sweet tooth well enough.
Sotto is solid. I can’t wait to return with The Astronomer.
9575 West Pico Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90035
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