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Slice of Sotto

Photography by Frank Wonho Lee

Chef Steve Samson Brings a Southern Italian Menu to the Heart of Los Angeles

In the basement of a bright red building on Pico Boulevard is one of Los Angeles’ best kept foodie secrets. Sotto, literally meaning “basement” in Italian, can be found in the hip location below the street level and provides guests with a classic southern Italian menu.

Sotto was opened in 2011 by Steve Samson and is open for dinner all week. Sotto is the first restaurant by Samson, with his second and newest restaurant Rossoblu, which features a Northern Italian inspired menu, located in Downtown Los Angeles’ fashion district.

To start off the dining experience, recommended appetizers consist of wood-roasted baby carrots with Fresno chilies, walnuts, and basil; and a grilled pork meatball, with percorino and bitter greens. For the pasta course, one of the most popular dishes is the rigatoni, made with chicken liver ragu, porcini, and Parmigiano Reggiano. Other pasta favorites include a squid ink campanelle, with shrimp and sepia ragu; Fresno chili, basil, and bread crumbs; and the always classic risotto, cooked with garlic, nettles, baby artichokes, and Parmigiano Reggiano.

Of course a southern Italian inspired menu would not be complete without a delectable variety of pizza. One of the most mouthwatering pizzas recommended by Samson is the Fiorata pizza, with salame picante, provolone, and buckwheat honey. Other popular pizzas include the fierce Diavolina, made with tomato, Calabrian chili, ‘nduja sausage, percorino, arugula, and onion; and the Funghi made with a mushroom cream sauce instead of the classic red tomato sauce, and topped with oyster mushrooms, roasted onions, scamorza, garlic, and chives. If you’re in the mood for a large entrée instead, a popular dish is the brick-pressed half chicken, served with heirloom bean ragu, house-made pork sausage and Tuscan kale; or the grilled rainbow trout, made with blood oranges and olivada and a fennel and radicchio salad. For those in the mood for the classic Italian favorites, the menu also features the Margherita pizza, made humbly with tomato, mozzarella, basil, and olive oil sourced from Italy.

Save room for dessert while eating at Sotto because the classic Italian desserts are something to be savored. At the top of the list and most popular of the desserts is the Buttermilk Zeppole, a traditional southern Italian beignet-like fried doughnut covered in powdered sugar and on top of chocolate sauce. Other classics on the dessert menu are the Cannoli Siciliani, made with ricotta, orange marmalade, pistachios, and chocolate; and the chocolate panna cotta with espresso crema and toasted hazelnuts. For those looking for an out of the box sweet course, try the Olive Oil Cake, made with olive oil, citrus, candied pistachios, and whipped cream. And in keeping with the Italian spirit, the assortment of gelatos should also get a taste.

Keeping a truly authentic menu, all bread and pasta is made in house every day, with the restaurant’s pasta maker, trained by Samson, who learned the art of pasta making from cooking lessons in Italy. Sotto uses locally sourced ingredients, with frequent trips throughout the week to local farmer’s markets for the freshest produce.

What can’t be found at the neighborhood farmer’s markets are brought in from local farms, including Marin Sun Farms, Tamai Farms, Gloria Farms, Fair Hills Farm, Dates by Duvall, Thao Family Farm, Munak Farms, Pudwill Farms, Murray Farms, Coleman Family Farms, and Bill’s Bees Honey. Sotto’s cheeses and olive oils are sourced straight from Italy in order to lock in the basics of Italian flavor. The impressive varieties of wine are selected by Sotto Wine Director Jeremy Parzen and features an all-Southern-Italy wine selection in order to best accompany the delectable menu.

The restaurant’s cozy interior was designed to be a warm and inviting atmosphere, with the oven as the main focal point of the restaurant and was built on-site by Stefano Ferrara. The dim lighting and candlelit tables create a warm and alluring ambiance for visitors.

Sotto would not be such a success without the help from Samson’s team. His wife, Dina, manages the restaurant and oversees the daily operations. Behind the kitchen doors, Chef de Cuisine Craig Towe runs the show, which allows for Samson to focus on his second restaurant Rossoblu. Before joining the team at Sotto, Towe studied the history and techniques of pasta at world renowned La Vecchia Scuola Bolognese, in Bologna, Italy.

Sotto is located at 9575 West Pico Boulevard, between Beverly and Beverwil Drives, Los Angeles, CA. They are open Sunday through Thursday 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

For more information or to make a reservation, please visit www.sottorestaurant.com.

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