You might say
I flew almost 13,000km just to dine here again; for Sotto delivers the kind experience that is equal parts chic bar and modern restaurant. The name is Sotto is quite literal, as it lies below its sister restaurant Picca; a peruvian restaurant with much the same dedication to quality of ingredients, freshness and originality.
Walking down the stairs and stepping into Sotto immediately teleports you to the trendiest Southern Italian institution you’re like to see outside of Naples. The place was buzzing. It was a Friday evening just after 8, and already the place was at capacity. Too many times back home, I have found this to be a critical factor when judging a restaurant on its merits – as too often quality of service and food take a hit as a result of the sheer traffic. Not here; the staff were courteous, friendly and very organised. In the kitchen (Open style, visible from the majority of the tables), although they never stopped the staff remained cool, calm and collected the entire evening; even when we left at after 11 the orders were still well and truly flowing in.
We sat down, and were greeted by the great man himself Jeremy Parzen; who fortuitously for us was making an appearance here over the weekend. I have met many fantastic people at various restaurants around the World, but Jeremy is a true gentleman. Even with the restaurant overflowing, he took the time throughout the night to converse with us and talk wine, travel and food. It was the precursor to a fantastic evening to be able to chat with someone so knowledgable yet so kind and charming. On Jeremy’s recommendation, we dug into the first wine of the night: A little natural number from Californian producer Donkey and Goat.
Now, the thought of ‘natural wine’ probably scares a lot of people; and I admit after having tried some abysmal offerings at a recent wine dinner I was rather hesitant. This example though; was superb. It is a predominant Marsanne blend that as you can see from the photo was rich, cloudy and golden straw in colour. The length and carry of this wine was thrilling and the aromatics quite pronounced. Very interesting stuff. By this stage, hunger was getting the better of us so with perfect timing came the arrival of our starters (Better not say the word Entree in the USA!), a duet of the classical Napoletano margherita, and a more contemporary sausage and rapa. With this we had to try also their irresistible grilled meatballs with egg and green salad.
Throughout the World; it has to be said that outside of Italy these have to be up there with the best. It hits all the right criteria: It is light and fluffy, has perfectly charred crust, is wood fired and above all perfectly textured. The grilled meatballs were also something else. They were fresh, grilled to perfection and the centre was moist – Unlike a lot of offerings I have had that were almost devoid of any moisture whatsoever.
With this, we paired with another couple of whites; a Mastroberadino Lacryma Cristi and a Michele Alois Pallagrello Bianco.
The Lacryma was one I thought would be interesting to try off the list, the Pallagrello Bianco was a recommendation of Jeremy (A varietal I had never tried before). Of the two, the Michele Alois was definitely the pick as I thought the Mastroberadino was tart, quite short and very unbalanced.
Next followed the mains; myself picking the casarecce topped with a lamb ragu, egg and pecorono.
Such an interesting dish. Slowed cooked lamb ragu is nothing new, but an egg beaten through a ragu reduction and drizzled over the top added a layer of richness that was complimented beautifully with the grated pecorino sardo. Tomato sauce played more of a supporting role, and its near-absence allowed the other flavours to really sing.
We had our mains with quite a few different Italians; a Nerello Mascalese from Benanti, a Primitivo from Puglias Gioia del Colle (Joy of the hills – The only ones in the region!) and an Aglianico del Vulture. On request we also tried another Californian; this time a Pinot Noir which didn’t impress.
I didn’t get a chance to take any detailed notes; but appreciated them for their diversity. We finished off with a couple of desserts which comprised traditional Sicillian ricotta cannoli and a rather interesting preview into a forthcoming dessert on the menu which was a deconstructed strawberry number; with layers of thin crusted pastry laden with sweetened cream filling. By this stage we were incredibly content, stomach-burstingly full and adequately inebriated – Testament to the success of the night as a whole.
Truth is; I had come here this time last year and knew I had to come back. Armed now with a blog, I could share this little gem that for all intents and purposes you could easily miss with all the Italian eateries that cover L.A. I won’t give it a score because I don’t feel it needs one; next time you book a trip to Los Angeles, make the trip down to Pico Boulevard. It’ll be well worth it.
9575 WEST PICO BLVD LOS ANGELES, CA 90035