I need few reasons to return to Sotto. Alas, I may be in trouble since tonight’s launch provides two new reasons to return – daily (okay, Tuesday through Monday, to be exact).
Sotto is launching both an Aperitivo Hour and a Digestivo Hour. You’ll get to choose from a few hunger-inducing cocktails by Julian Cox during this hour for $9 each as well as from a variety of bar bites for $3 each, like Ceci Fritti, Season Crostini, Calamari Fritti, Lupini Beans Sott’aceto and Arrosticini.
The Aperitivo Hour runs from 5:30 – 6:30 PM from Tuesdays through Sundays and includes cocktails like the Sazerac Rusticum, with wild fennel infused Aperol, Grappa, herb-infused Vermouth and a Sambuca rinse; or the adorably named Rome with a View, with Campari, Dry Vermouth, fresh lime and soda. Since I’ve been loving the Negroni, lately, the Aperitivo hour may be my very own adult candy store.
Digestivo Hour runs from 9 – 10 nightly, also from Tuesdays through Sundays, where you’ll also get access to $3 bites but these particular $9 cocktails will be aimed at being a nice little nightcap, like the Il Cattivo – made with Holland gin, Italian vermouth, Branca Menta and lemon peel.
These are all available at the bar, only, so I’d recommend getting there as close to the start of the hours as you can. See you on the Westside.
Tuesdays – Sundays (closed Mondays)
5:30 – 6:30 PM
9 – 10 PM
Sotto 9575 W. Pico Boulevard Los Angeles, CA 90035 310.277.0210 @sottola
I’ll get right to the point. Let’s count the reasons, shall we?
Delicious, housemade charcuterie: Check. Fresh, housemade pasta: Check. Flavorful and tender-to-the-fork meatballs: Check. Tasty Neopolitan pizzas: Check. Former Porchetta and 10 Downing (NYC) chef Jason Neroni in the kitchen: Check.
I had the opportunity to try all this and more at a recent media lunch and came out glad that I played hooky devoted work PTOÂ to doing so. Nothing is lost, however, on the starters. The ricotta croquettas topped with a touch of truffle honey haven’t lost their touch – still fluffy as ever -Â in the changeover. The excellent salumi that came out included a chicken liver and pork pate, porchetta di testa, terrina campagnola – and last, but certainly not least, a whipped lardo.Â I couldn’t get enough of thatÂ lardo, so of course I couldn’t complain when it also appeared on the lightly fried green tomatoes. But the meatballs! The meatballs!Â How unordinary they were, what with their flavor and texture.Â They were really divine.Â In between these bites were smoked and extra meaty olives and pickles as well as salted, pork fat almonds.
ï»¿Only after all of this did we really start lunch.
The pasta was delicious. Not oversauced, not too simplistic withÂ just enough going on to keep things cohesive,Â interesting and more than enjoyable.Â The freshness of the angelotti, bucatini and parpadelle were quite as good as any I’ve had, with those pastas being made the same day in a specially designated “pasta room” (which doubles as a private dining room housing the chef’s table) just upstairs.
Feeling like a sweet-ish pasta? Go with the Sweet Corn Angelotti with Dungeness Crab, Lemon Basil and Butter. In the mood for a heavier variety? The Rabbit Parpadelle with Castelvetrano Olives and Porchini Mushrooms is also excellent. The Bucatini Carbonara comes withÂ an irresistable poached eggÂ and is seasoned with Marscarpone, Guanciale and Black Pepper, which gives this pasta a delicious kick.
The pizza is delicious, though I must admit that my favorite tends to be the simplest variety – appropriate named “The Classic” at Osteria La Buca: Mozzarella, tomato, sea salt and basil is all you’ll find on this one. But the fennel sausage variety with ricotta, pickled jalapenos and garlic paste is also game. It all depends on what you like.
I must say, though, don’t forget dessert. Especially the refreshing Basil Ice Cream with Sauteed Strawberries. The Chocolate Budino with sea salt also stands on its own, and dare I say its simplicityÂ gives Mozza’s a run for their money?
Osteria La Buca really is a delightful place to dine, with plenty of solid options. With its recent, refresherÂ remodel setting the frameworkÂ for JasonÂ Neroni’sÂ arrival, it’s apparent that they have aimed to step up their game. While I found the former La Buca warm and charming, it seems that Chef Neroni has tightened things up and dishes come out a bit more refined. Delicioso.
I had wanted to make it out to Sotto for awhile since it opened back in March, when it had taken over the space formerly occupied by the all-abuzz Test Kitchen, the establishment that was a literal revolving door for LA chefs to test out their menus on adventurous diners. Gone are the one- (and two- and three-) offs and in come Steve Samson and Zach Pollack – permanently.
Sotto is the incarnation of Steve and Zach’s thankful relocation to LA from behind the Orange Curtain, and I am so glad they are here. With the inclusion of a stellar cocktail program making it an all-around solid place for food and drink, my pocketbook itself is thankful I’m not actually located on the Westside. Regardless, Sotto is a place I would gladly become a regular.
The Southern Italian dishes source Southern Californian ingredients beautifully – starting with a grilled salad enticingly called “Blistered Little Gems,” with anchovy garlic pestata, breadcrumbs, pecorino Moliterno. Yes, it’s a delicious warm salad, three words I never thought I’d ever have put together, but the way in which the flavored bread crumbs, anchovies and garlic gracefully season the still-crisp lettuce was an impressive, physics-defying feat. My knife cut through the greens as loudly as the crunch of the crumbs while bite after bite tickled my tastebuds. It was a starter that made me more than eager about what was to come.
From the ravings from friends in myÂ Twitter feed, however, I had missed out on the most blissful yet simplest of starters: The housemade bread with lardo pestado. So – you’re hereby ordered to try that. I, on theÂ other hand,Â won’t make the mistake, again.
Next were the Sardines and Sicilian citrus salad, with shaved fennel in a crushed olive-pistachio vinaigrette. I loved how the salty skin of the sardines were complimented by the fennel and parsley, making the entire dish a medley of fresh and flavorful textures. The grapefruit was the perfect citrus – not too sweet, a little sourÂ and adding nicely to the overall aroma.
There are few Italian restaurants that strike meÂ as havingÂ an authentic charm it can call its own. But now that I’ve been introduced to to the hospitality and cuisineÂ of Marino – I can now point to a place that prides itself as much on attentive serviceÂ as its food.Â Great conversation andÂ the freshest ingredients: I canÂ only describe it asÂ The Italian Way. I’m a fan.
Sal Marino – son of original restauranteur Ciro, who first opened Il Grano in Santa Monica – personallyÂ took care of Caroline on Crack, Joshua of FoodGPS and me one night at the restaurant nearby Paramount Pictures. As our team of servers came out with our food, we were increasingly overwhelmed by not only the quantity but also the presentation of things on their menu. We started out with an antipasti dish that included eggplant, zucchini, beets, sweet roasted red and yellow peppers with capers and cipollini onionsÂ seasoned withÂ marinara. Decidedly seasonal, the dish whetted our appetites for the real heavyweights to come.
The baked artichokes were rich, creamy and stuffed with two different cheeses. Though they look small, they were so rich as an appetizer I could have actually shared one. Call me weaksauce.
The fried calamari that came out were noticeably fresh and had a perfect breading. Apparently, the calamari doubles as that also supplied to sushi chefs – not your typical filler appetizer with something to hide from being fried.
The Risotto alla Salsiccia e Funghi came paired with a delicious,Â house-made Maccheroncini sauced with an Amatriciana marinara (tomato with caramelized white onion and pancetta). The risotto in particular was my favorite – okay, yes, I am partial to risotto – but the homemade sausage in the risotto was especially good, as was the fact that three different kinds of mushrooms were included: oyster, shiitake and porcini. The porcini is so delicate it actually dissolves into the risotto upon preparation.