Sotto, West Los Angeles

· 9575 W Pico Blvd · Los Angeles, CA 90035 · Neighborhood · West Los Angeles ·

This sexy and romantic little bite of Southern Italy is just the sort of place this area needs. I used to live around here and found myself driving to Culver City or 3rd Street to get my Italian fix. Sad to see the Test Kitchen go, but glad to see they are making a good use of the space left behind.

Sotto is a great date spot as it’s dimly lit and provides a substantial wine list, yummy cocktails and a variety of non-alcoholic drinks. The music is very KCRW as Indie rock music like the Smiths, Black Keys, Arcade Fire or MGMT plays lightly in the background. I came with an intimate party of three and we all had voracious appetites so we were able to try a bunch of items from their current menu.

I sipped the Tiger’s Blood cocktail, which had Campari, Ramazzotti, muddled orange, lemon juice and soda water. It was not what I would have imagined Tiger’s Blood to taste like. There were no remnants of tigers or blood and Charlie Sheen was nowhere to be found. Instead it was light and very citrusy. Get it if you like lemon-infused cocktails.

Also tried a non-alcoholic lemonade type beverage, which was simple and refreshing.

The Grilled Pork Meatballs were the first to come out and were a table favorite. The pork was a fluffy consistency and you could definitely taste the lemon infused into the mix. They were grilled perfectly and sat atop lemon leaves, pecorino and bitter greens. We all agreed that we wished we could have had just one more meatball.

My other favorite was something my friend ordered. The Tomato-Braised Octopus ai Ferri which was served with chickpeas, preserved lemon, chard and some kind of delicious sauce. It was appetizing in both presentation and taste. I don’t think I have tasted octopus this good.

Another appetizer we tried were the Friarelli Peppers Al Forno, which is simply Italian speak for Shishito Peppers. They were texturally very good but pretty basic. I could have used a little more flavor or a sauce of some sort to accompany. It was missing something.

I liked the Shaved Beet & Mixed Chicory Salad, which had wheat berries, lemon vinaigrette and fiore sardo. My friend who ordered it however thought it was a bit too delicate in flavor and needed a little more kick.

I love a restaurant where the pastas are homemade. I ordered the Ciceri e Tria Pasta, which was made up of tagliatelle, chickpeas and baccalá (which is a salty cod fish). Loved the soft textures of the pasta and fish juxtaposed with the crunchy noodle-crouton. I would order this one again next time. But then again, I really like baccalá.

Sotto features a Neapolitan pizza oven hand-built by Stefano Ferrara, a third-generation oven maker from Naples. When you’re doing Italian, might as well use Italian parts, right? I hear it took him and his assistant about seven days to build the oven from start to finish.

Now, I was kicking myself that night for coming here, knowing about the pizza yet having given up cheese during lent. Doh!

BUT… and here’s a big but… Sotto is probably the first pizza place I’ve been to that actually has a really good cheese-less pizza on the menu. Hooray for me! It’s a simple Marinara pizza with oregano, tomato, garlic and EVOO. I got to indulge after all! Oh, and don’t be scared by those little pizza blisters on the crust, Sotto fires up their pizzas with a combination of oak and beech which helps the heat to stay consistent and adds those little dimples and pockets of flavor on your pizza.

The Marinara Pizza was pretty good though I found myself preferring a more crispier, crunchy crust to their soft, chewy one. Well, to each their own. I’m going to have to come back when I can try their Boscaiola or their Guanciale pizzas which have some toppings! (I must say though, that the Marinara did taste pretty delicious heated up the next morning for breakfast.)

We also ordered the classic Margherita Pizza, which I didn’t try but was told from my dinner comrades that it was good.

A recommendation from the table next to us led us to our table winner of the night, dessert! We all loved the Bittersweet Chocolate Crostata, which had crumbled hazelnuts and a punch in the face of salted rosemary caramel. The first bite had my taste buds all crazy. A must try if you love bittersweet chocolate and rosemary punches in the face!

All in all, Sotto is worth a visit and is a welcome addition to the list of good Italian eateries in my neighborhood. Keep it on your radar so that when the hostess at Mozza laughs in your face for trying to get a last minute reservation you have a great plan B!

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