In a city teeming with high-end Italian, Sotto is one of the newer entries in the field. Housed in the former Test Kitchen space, it’s a high energy room doling out wonderful rustic Italian dishes with service that that didn’t uphold its end of the bargain.
Meeting a friend, The Monster realized this little stretch of Pico is fast becoming a restaurant destination. With the opening of Cipriani down the street, and the forthcoming Picca housed upstairs from Sotto, what was once a barren food landscape now holds much promise.
We waited for an eternity for our server to come to the table, which given we were seated in the brightest spot of the room was slightly anachronistic. At least the busboy recognized we might be thirsty as we sat in confused conversation as to why we were being ignored. Isn’t waving our arms and calling out in a fevered pitch the international symbol for come feed us? While perfectly friendly, our server didn’t seem engaged with us and it made the dining experience a slightly detached affair.
The menu at Sotto allows for much sharing. Starters, Pasta, Pizza and Larger Entrees mean this would be a great place to come with a big group. Or The Monster who orders for a larger group even when not with one.
We must get the tomato-braised octopus ai ferri with chickpeas, preserved lemon, chard and bottarga. The fried calamaretti with lemon, red onion and colatura sounds great. Friarelli peppers (similar to shishito) al forno with Pantalleria capers and oregano will be tried. Oh, spaghetti with clams, zucchini, chilies and mollica sounds delicious. Might we have room for a pizza? Because we’re getting the Margherita with tomato, mozzarella, basil. My friend ordered the Casarecce pasta with braised lamb ragu, egg and pecorino for himself. To his credit, he didn’t appear phased by the over-ordering.
The first dish out was the octopus and it was marvelous. Perfectly cooked, this was a harmonious blend of flavor and texture. It was a large enough portion for two to easily share and portended for great things in our offing.
The peppers meanwhile proved a little disappointing. One was oddly hot in spice while the next offered little flavor. While we finished these off it felt like a dish that could easily be skipped.
When our server next appeared from blithely ignoring us she brought out the fried calamaretti. These tiny calamari doused with a hint of lemon were a lovely next course. The fried coating was thin and not greasy, this took The Monster back to memories of his wedding in Capri.
When the pastas were brought to the table we both reverently went to town. It was a full portion of perfectly cooked pasta with fresh ingredients. As The Monster ate his he sneaked a peak at the menu again, wondering what he might order the next time he hits Sotto.
The last course was the pizza. Which at this point felt oddly out of place. The pizza itself was good, but eating it at this juncture didn’t seem the right grace note to the meal. It might have been better served before the pastas.
We politely declined coffee and dessert as it was getting late and there was no more room at the inn.
Funny, at this point (when the bill has to be paid) our server was on top of her game. Nothing makes waiters move faster than knowing they get to go home soon.
Why go? You love Italian cooking and have been to the same spots too many times.
Monster rating: 4/5 Monsters
9575 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90035