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Pizza at Sotto

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  • MarkC Aug 1, 2012 08:57 AM
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After all the positive reviews Sotto gets on CH, I was eager to try it out. The pleasing ambiance and intriguing menu also augured well. Unfortunately, things went downhill from there.

An appetizer of spicy clams was so salty as to be almost inedible, while the roast chicken badly needed some sort of flavoring. The wild boar pasta was thick and chewy, with a very meagre portion of sauce, which was more of a jus than a ragu. However, the biggest disappointment was the pizza. Our waiter described it as a neapolitan style pizza. It was not. The crust was completely lacking in any of the qualities one associates with pizza. I would have described it more as a kind of flatbread. It was soft and fluffy, and totally devoid of flavor. In appearance and texture it reminded me of those pre-baked, store-bought pizza crusts called bobolis. Obviously, I can't say for sure, but in my opinion, Sotto uses pre-baked crusts for their pizza, possibly of a commercial variety.

The pizza wasn't exactly bad. The toppings were flavorful, but it just wasn't a pizza crust.

For dessert, the cannoli was better than the chocolate torte, which was just an artless chunk of chocolate one would expect to find in a chain restaurant.

Judging from our fellow diners, this place is better suited for young couples who want to enjoy the fancy cocktails in a lively atmosphere. Foodies and pizza afficionados should go elsewere.

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  1. i'd respectfully disagree. i think sotto is doing one of the best neopolitan pizzas around. just ate there over the weekend and was blown away again by how good sotto is.

    one of my truly favorite places to eat in the city right now.

    1. Love the clams! Love the pizza! Love the octopi!

      IMHO, surely what a true Neapolitan pizza should be, and far from commercially produced.

      I doubt anyone would import a handmade Stefano Ferrara woodburning oven from Italy, to toss in a pre-baked crust commercially made.

      It's unfortunate that you had a bad experience. I kind of had a so-so experience the first time I went, but I gave them the benefit of the doubt. And it was the clams and pizza that brought me back the 2nd time....and 3rd time....and 4th, etc. I would urge you to return for another try as well.. Maybe it was an off night for them?

      1. Been a few times myself and couldn't agree more. The pasta dish I had was awful and the pizzas were chewy with a rubbery feel. Watching the bartender smash a block of ice with a spoon was fun though.

        1. Could not disagree more. The pork cheek pizza is fantastic and the pork chop is one of the best in the City. Brick chicken is also very good. Service is always solid. Have not had the clams, but the makral and octopus are both very good.

          1. We went several months ago and we were very disappointed as well. We had a lot of things that came out of the wood burning over and everything, and I do mean everything, was burnt black. Not good burnt, but black and bitter. I couldn't get the take out of my mouth or rid of my black tongue for hours.

            1. You couldn't possibly be more wrong in your assessment of the pizza at Sotto.

              1. You do know that you can see Zach making the pizzas through the glass window right? There is no pre-baked crust anywhere in that kitchen. I'll give you that it's not the best pizza in the city, although some people seem to really like it, but it's far from bad.

                1. "The toppings were flavorful, but it just wasn't a pizza crust. "

                  can you elaborate.

                  If you're going to complain about a wet soggy center...

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: MarkC

                    Agree. Tried the place twice and both times thought the pizza dough sucked. Bread-y is exactly right. Dough-y is another way to describe it.

                    BSW liked the guanciale pizza. It was good on paper - and if the crust was good and they had 3-4 times the guanciale - it might well have been good.

                    There are lots of better Italian restaurants. Twice was enough. In fact, apparently, one time too many. Life is too short to spend it eating mediocre food. I'd rather go upstairs to Picca.

                    1. re: foodiemahoodie

                      The only problem with that plan is that PIcca is totally mediocre as well.

                      1. re: Helper Monkey

                        While I definitely wouldn't call Picca mediocre I also don't put it up there with Red Medicine or Animal when it comes to producing dishes that just draw you back, again and again. Certainly Picca has some good dishes. And it's pretty unique with a very fair price point. But if I'm going out to spend some bucks and dine at a place that leave me with a smile on my face at the end of the meal I'll be going to some other establishment.

                  2. Picca was meh, but we like Sotto. then again, we didn't have the pizza. Now I feel like I must try it.

                    1. You're quite right, except for the pre-baked crusts.
                      In fact, pre-baked would've been way better.
                      However, wine options are excellent, hard to find anywhere else in LA.
                      Also: very good olives.

                      1. Wow.

                        Just reading the dichotomy of opinions here makes me think there is a hidden portal into some sort of Bizarro World near the entrance of Sotto. Some customers enter the real Sotto and leave with glowing reviews, while the others... Well, you get the idea...

                        1. In fairness, I think we might be getting a bit jaded given the explosion of "high-end" pizza in this city in recent years. Having said this, I was pretty underwhelmed by Sotto's pizza after trying it for the first time this week. While I wouldn''t go so far as to say it tasted pre-made, I would concur that it was a much chewier crust than I am accustomed to, though the toppings were fine if not particularly memorable. Maybe it's unfair to compare, but if I am going to spend that kind of money on a pizza, i'm going to stick with Mozza.

                          14 Replies
                          1. re: ronsilverado

                            Is suspect they haven't quite found their way with the pizza dough. I don't remember chewy - I remember it being a little too much like bread. So maybe they're playing around with different recipes, trying different things.

                            1. re: foodiemahoodie

                              I thin its pretty safe to say they "have found their way". This post is getting silly. This is one of the best new restaurants in LA. That said, the dough is certainly not CPK. Maybe with time....

                              1. re: Thor123

                                Maybe just another classic case of not understanding the Neapolitan style pizza in LA?

                                I haven't been to Sotto so I can't weigh in. However these "Boboli pizza" comments sound eerily like the critiques of Ortica with people claiming they can make better pizza using Trader Joe's pizza dough. Needless to say, the pizza at Ortica is amazing and very proper Neapolitan style.

                                1. re: Porthos

                                  My understanding is Neopolitan is "A charred crust, thin in the middle and thicker around the edges" - which I love. Gjelina has that - I think Mozza has that too (I haven't been to Mozza - the pizza side - in a couple years But that might be what they're trying to do (though I don't think they state that). But this was a little too much like bread for me. I don't remember having pizza quite like this in Italy. I do remember having a Sicilian style - deep dish, bready thing with tomatoes - which doesn't work for me. (though the Chicago variant of that- when it's bready and has a great crisp to it by way of a lot of olive oil in the pan - I do like.)

                                  1. re: foodiemahoodie

                                    The chewiness of the crust is another hallmark. Some may call that "like bread" or "like flatbread".

                                    Mozza's crust is very crispy. Definitely not Neapolitan style. Interestingly enough, when Mozza first opened someone here on the LA boards called the pizza at Mozza "not pizza" but "more like bread".

                                    Again, I haven't been to Sotto so I can't weigh in, but something must account for these Jekell and Hyde reports. This disparity is very similar to the 800 Degree and Ortica disparate reports. Both Neapolitan style products.

                                    1. re: Porthos

                                      Yeah, I would NOT called a chewy crust thing bread. What I'm talking about is the white bread center. As in the center of Wonderbread. What would you call that? Whitebread spongy. I remember Mozza being more of a chewy thin bread. (and the chef/baker I went with thought it was very good, but just a tiny bit too chewy) .

                                      1. re: foodiemahoodie

                                        "The margherita achieves all the textures that Neapolitan style strives to achieve. A fluffy crust without a harsh chew, not a hint of overworked gluten. A wet center, the makeshift altar for olive oil, cheese and dough to enter holy matrimony and become one. Crispy bits here. Soft bits there" LA Weekly

                                        1. re: foodiemahoodie

                                          "Yeah, I would NOT called a chewy crust thing bread. What I'm talking about is the white bread center. As in the center of Wonderbread. What would you call that? Whitebread spongy"

                                          Exactly this. It's not chewy, it's soggy and gummy in the middle. It's pretty foul. Too bad, because the toppings and the char are great.

                                        2. re: Porthos

                                          I think you should run to Sotto.
                                          According to J. Gold "there is an oven, a 15,000-pound behemoth ballasted with imported Vesuvian soil, and chefs Steve Samson and Zack Pollack come from Ortica, the South Coast Plaza restaurant that redefined Orange County pizza"

                                          1. re: jblee

                                            That did it. Will definitely make plans to go end of this month.

                                            Glad to see Neapolitan style pizza finally taking off in LA despite continued misundertandings. Finally, we get our own Neapolitan style pizza renaissance.

                                            Really eyeing the squid ink fusilli with bottarga...

                                            1. re: Porthos

                                              I am a big Sotto fan.

                                        3. re: foodiemahoodie

                                          Mozza is definitely NOT neapolitan, neither is Gjelina.

                                          1. re: TailbackU

                                            "Here at MozzaPi we love pizza, and not just any pizza either. We have an obsession for wood fired oven pizzas, both Neapolitan and our own unique creations" - Mozza web site.

                                            "The tender ingredients were concentrated in the center, creating a wet crust of the Neapolitan variety fit for a fork and knife." - Daily Slice on Gjelina

                                            1. re: TailbackU

                                              You are right. Obviously from the CPK school of pizza. Pardon the mass unsophistication.

                                  2. Definitely too many strange comments here...Sotto crust is like "wonderbread?" i dont think so...and dare i add that i tried Settebello in Pasadena for the first time....Excellent Neapolitan pizza....the Margherita DOC with sausage was heavenly...just dont sit there yapping while the pie cools...Eat it right away!

                                    10 Replies
                                    1. re: lapizzamaven

                                      Sotto can be hit or miss.
                                      You need to call ahead and make sure Sergio is working....

                                      1. re: burntwater

                                        Best reply ever.

                                        1. re: burntwater

                                          Ha!!!

                                          1. re: J.L.

                                            And for goodness sakes...don't leave you luggage in the car...whatever you do!!! Let Sergio take care of it for you while you eat...

                                          2. re: burntwater

                                            And keep in mind the traffic in LA -- depending on the time of day, it may take you less time to fly to Napoli than it does to go from the beach to West Hollywood/BH.

                                          3. re: lapizzamaven

                                            I thought Sotto's pizza sucked largely because I don't like that Wonderbread-ish center.

                                            Did you not have the same experience?

                                            1. re: foodiemahoodie

                                              Not sure who youre asking, foodiem..., but never had anything like your experience at Sotto...i'll be there thursday to reconfirm my praise of their pizza!

                                              1. re: lapizzamaven

                                                and I tomorrow

                                                1. re: lapizzamaven

                                                  Try the pork chop too if they have it. Really good.

                                                  1. re: lapizzamaven

                                                    You must lead a charmed life lapizzamaven!

                                              2. I went there for lunch today, and ordered the Margherita. My experience follows. Whenever I try a new pizza place out, I go through a ritual. The first thing I do is look at the pie. There was good charring on both top and bottom, the sauce and mozza were in good proportions although I prefer the basil to be put on after the pie comes out of the oven, and there was a defined end crust. Next I smell the pie. It passed the smell test. Where it failed was that I prefer a more firm crust. When I pick up a slice and fold it, i want the tip to stay up, not droop down. My standard for a crust is the crust at Pizzeria Bianco, and this does not come close. I base my like/dislike of pies 90% on the crust. I also had the meatballs app. These I enjoyed. Not too firm, good char on some of the perimeter, great taste. Would I go back? Not for the pizza.

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: pizzafreak

                                                  Thank you for the very detailed description of the crust. I am practically convinced this is a very proper Neapolitan crust and can't wait to try it!. Moving my visit date from end of the month to next weekend.

                                                  1. re: Porthos

                                                    After reading what you wrote, and rereading my post, I want to add the following to my post.: if Sotto's Margherita toppings were put on a PB crust, this, IMO would be a world class pie.

                                                  2. re: pizzafreak

                                                    @pizzafreak...Sotto makes a more Neapolitan style crust, meaning it aint gonna be firm...shared a great guanciale pie and a margherita last night. the crust is a little thicker and a little chewier than a true Neapolitan like the former Antica in MDR or Settebello in Pasadena which makes a great pie too. and these types of pies simply do not "fold" like some people prefer...at least LA pizza scene is improving!

                                                    1. re: lapizzamaven

                                                      Absolutely.

                                                  3. Agree, It's decent but not hype worthy. I was moderately disappointed as well. And I don't like their tiny, overpriced, strange cocktails. The pastas were very good, but small portions. So far Settebello in Pasadena has by far my favorite Neapolitan pizza, but sadly that is very far from my home (west side.)

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: sarahbeths

                                                      Had dinner there on Wed. Cant avoid the pork cheek pizza and its great. Pork porterhouse is now on the menu. Its huge and outstanding.

                                                    2. We thought the cocktails were best in show, the appetizers very good but the pizza was indifferent, way too charred on the crust and overall not remotely close the excellence that Antica Pizzeria routinely put out before they closed (haven't been to Mozza so can't compare). I don't mind some char to the crust, but this was just ridiculous, about 85-95% ashy-blah.

                                                      1. Last night I had a hankering for the clams, so on a whim I drove on down to Sotto and had yet another fantastic meal. The place was packed, but they were gracious enough to find us a table. I absolutely stuffed myself.

                                                        We had:
                                                        Warm Octopus Insalatina
                                                        Chickpea panelle w/ ragusano cheese
                                                        Spicy clams w/ n'juda
                                                        Casarecce w/ lamb ragu
                                                        Margherita pizza

                                                        I absolutely love this place. Excellent service, an accomidating staff, beautiful food, and very decent pricing. This place has kinda become my little 'go-to' spot for a good meal.

                                                        1. Just came back from dinner tonight. We also had a fantastic night, the food is great. Don't know what all the naysayers are picking apart!

                                                          Spicy Clams in guazetto w/ bean, 'nduja, and grilled bread. Fantastic beginning, rich oceanic broth that you just want to dip your bread in again and again. And that smokiness from the grill, this was the hit of the night.

                                                          Toasted Grain fusilli corti with rabbit ragu, porcini, and thyme. Perfectly al dente pasta in a rich umami laden sauce. This is the taste of comfort.

                                                          Fennel crusted Pork Chop - excellent. Not as much fennel as I expected, I think they've toned done the amount comparing to pictures of past. But, still excellent none the less, slightly pink with just the right moisture.

                                                          And finally, the Guanciale pizza. My reference points of Neopolitan pizza are from Sottebello in Pasadena and Una Pizzeria Bruno in San Diego, which has the best margherita w/ mozzerella bufala when it's available. As people have mentioned before, this is in the style of Neopolitan pizza. Wet center, slightly soft, chewy, and doughy.

                                                          Sotto's version in particular doesn't have the any kind of crunch, other than the char on the top, but it was absolutely no problem for me. The Neopolitan styles mentioned previously were similar with the same wet centers, doughy/soft body. It's not going to be everyone's cup of tea, but for what it is, I think Sotto's the best representation of the style in Los Angeles. Highly recommended!

                                                          1. Was underwhelmed my first visit, but given the reviews am heading back tonight. Any updates on specific recs?

                                                            At the very least I know I'll get some quality drinks.

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: a213b

                                                              Pork Chop! Actually, although I am a huge fan of the place, they pour a measured shot, which bugs me to no end. Brick chicken, pork meatballs, porkceak pizza all winners.

                                                              1. re: BSW6490

                                                                Was talking to an Italian chef recently - someone who makes a pretty great pizza himself. He also hails from a town near Naples. So I asked him about the best Neopolitan pizza in L.A. and he raved about Mother Dough on Hollwood Blvd. Said to avoid all the other stuff, just stick to the pizza. " But the pizza..." and he kissed his fingertips. You know the drill.

                                                              2. re: a213b

                                                                Wanted to report back that we had a MUCH better experience this time around. Had the Skirt Steak Tagliata, Clams, Maharrones, and the Salsiccia/Friarielli pizza.

                                                                The first two were PHENOMENAL. Swoon-worthy. Pasta was very good, and the pizza was (again, to me) the weakest part of the meal -- that being said, it was tasty.

                                                                Love their cocktails, and next time I think I'll just sit at the bar.

                                                                Will happily return now.

                                                              3. Some of the comments on here are absolutely incredible. Boboli?!?!? I need to see pictures of what you're cranking out in YOUR pizza oven. I've got an oven and I can tell you these are well crafted pies. Sotto is in the same company as Mozza, Gjelina/GTA. Anyone claiming otherwise simply doesn't know what they're talking about.

                                                                http://dineomite.blogspot.com/2013/02...

                                                                 
                                                                 
                                                                 
                                                                 
                                                                9 Replies
                                                                1. re: ladybugthepug

                                                                  Some of the comments on here are absolutely incredible. Boboli?!?!?
                                                                  ====================
                                                                  Yep. After a certain point, it's no longer simply a matter of taste.

                                                                  1. re: Porthos

                                                                    "Yep. After a certain point, it's no longer simply a matter of taste."

                                                                    If you are saying people here employ hyperbole to make their point I would agree with you. But their strong feelings about the pizza is absolutely a matter of taste. Not your taste, but taste none-the-less...

                                                                    1. re: Servorg

                                                                      It's not just hyperbole. It's not understanding certain cuisines and judging certain ethnic cuisines through a point of view with limited exposure to that cuisine.

                                                                      Everyone can have an opinion and everyone is entitled to their tastes.

                                                                      But certain statements show a lack of understanding of the cuisine being "judged".

                                                                      To say that Neapolitan pizza is raw because it is wet in the middle is incorrect, not just a matter of taste. Saying that "Sotto uses pre-baked crusts for their pizza, possibly of a commercial variety" is incorrect not just taste. To say that a kitchen botched a duck or chicken dish because it was cold is incorrect if that dish is traditionally served cold.

                                                                      Again, everyone is entitled to their own taste. But not everyone is "correct".

                                                                      1. re: Porthos

                                                                        I could even see if they said it was "burnt". Technically they're right - it IS burnt to a degree, but to call something 'Bobili'?!?! That's just plain ridiculous.

                                                                        1. re: Porthos

                                                                          some chicken dishes, like revenge, are best served cold...someone may have a random bad pie, pasta or whatever, but criticism to have any legitimacy, has to understand certain traditions and definitions...otherwise its just an opinion which everyone has the freedom to express but not to expect credibility! harrumph! Sotto makes some bad ass pizza!

                                                                          1. re: Porthos

                                                                            "It's not just hyperbole."

                                                                            True, in this case it was hyperBoboli.

                                                                            1. re: New Trial

                                                                              LOL

                                                                            2. re: Porthos

                                                                              Plus 100

                                                                        2. re: ladybugthepug

                                                                          After having a rocky first experience, we are now head-over-heels for Sotto ... incredible food & drinks, and service!

                                                                          Just had family in town, and had requested a specific table when we booked. Arrived a minute or two early and ended up being seated in a similarly located spot, though not the exact table we requested.

                                                                          None of us gave it a second thought, but before we knew it management dropped by with complimentary glasses of bubbly and profuse apologies -- apparently they had reserved the table for us, but another party pitched such a fit to be seated there that management acquiesced.

                                                                          I told them all of this was unnecessary, that it was just a request, but their (unnecessary, IMO) service recovery solidified our love for this place.

                                                                          Plus it's just smart business -- even though we were recommending Sotto before, now I'm passing out recs like candy at Halloween.