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Sotto Review

Went there last night for dinner, 4 people. Yesterday I browsed the sight to find out what dishes you all raved about, and compiled a list which I presented to my party. We decided that we were going to share all the dishes, and after each had a glass of wine we ordered 2 Blistered Gem salads and 2 orders of meatballs. Prior to that the waiter brought out the bread with Lardo. I thought the bread was excellent, but somehow couldn't see my way clear to placing a meatball on top of it as someone had done. The consensus was that we had started out the evening on a high note. We next ordered 2 pastas, the Squid Fusilli and Lamb Ragu, and all the plates were practically licked clean. Our final entrees were the Brick Chicken and Crusted Pork Chop. Everyone enjoyed the chicken, however the Pork chop had mixed reviews. The 2 ladies said that the meat was raw, the guys loved it. After a pause, we finished off with 1 order of Cannoli and 2 orders of Olive Cake. I thought the Cannoli's were meh but the olive cake was fine. 2,000 calories each later, we staggered out the door. We thoroughly enjoyed the evening. If only they would learn how to make Pizza they would be first rank.

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    1. re: JAB

      Lol. You wanna take this one?

      Was back there myself this past weekend and 2 weekends before that.

      My new favorite pasta is the rigatoni with chicken liver and maitake. Outstanding stuff. There is a slight sweetness that cuts the liver. The roasted maitake provides great texture.

      The Easter soup with lamb meatballs I had 2 weeks ago was also excellent.

      Pizza Margherita both times were as good as ever. The buffalo mozzarella and grassiness of the high quality olive oil really shines through. I cut the pies into quarters and folded them in half. Ate them using my hands. No droop, no loss of cheese. Just spectacular stuff.

      1. re: Porthos

        ate the pizza with your hands? how did you avoid being ticketed by the fancy pizza authenticification police?

        1. re: linus

          Using hands is perfectly acceptable if you know how to do it. Those that struggle should probably use the fork and knife. If one can't eat Chinese food using chopsticks, use a fork and knife. Don't complain that the food is made wrong.

          See link below...

          http://nymag.com/restaurants/cheapeat...

          "This, however, is merely a cultural misunderstanding. The knife and fork are just an option, not a requirement. Emily Post may not approve, but no one in a Naples-style pizzeria is going to look askance if you use your mitts to pick up a slice of pie and shovel it into your mouth. In fact, according to Italian-food expert Tony May, the preferred method in his native Naples is the same fold familiar to any New Yorker: “Take a slice between your index finger and thumb, then take it to your mouth and start biting at it.”"

          1. re: Porthos

            Although the pizza we had on my visit was so wet I would have had to roll up like a Pillsbury Crescent roll in order to eat it by hand.

            1. re: Servorg

              Well, as trolley said, they've gotten the hang of this in Denver and on the mountain states boards. I'm confident LA will get the hang of it one day.

              1. re: Porthos

                I don't think getting the hang of what was turned into a mushy mess by too many wet ingredients on top of that already soft center would be gettable, no matter where you live.

                1. re: Servorg

                  Maybe it's just the individual then? ;-D>

                  1. re: Porthos

                    Definitely not in the case of the waterlogged pizza this time around. It was not a good idea to load a damp center with toppings that exude more water. It killed the center. Like trying to eat a bite of flooded swamp with a fork. Drier ingredients would have been a MUCH better design. As I said in my review, too much of the "Gilgamesh" epic...I was thinking about cubits and putting together an Ark.

                    1. re: Servorg

                      Neapolitan pizza may not be for you. Which is fine. As long as you don't accuse Sotto of not knowing how to make one like the OP. :-)

                      Feel free to look up A16 and Ortica. You'll see the same arguments and complaints on threads 3-6 years old.

                      1. re: Porthos

                        I'd say they flunked in this case. Or more appropriately, they belly flopped off the high dive of bad pizza design. I did like the crust very much. But you can't open the sluice gates like William Mulholland did with the LA Aqueduct and expect anyone outside of Michael Phelps to enjoy the end result when it comes to sogged out pizza.

                        1. re: Servorg

                          It's as dry as the Sahara compared to 800 Degrees.

                          1. re: Thor123

                            Then I'm wearing my water wings when I go there...

                        2. re: Porthos

                          @Porthos - is there EVER an instance where the center can be "too wet" for you? It seems that you won't even consider that this is a possibility.

                          1. re: ns1

                            ns1. That's how Neapolitan pie is. I didn't invent it. Just appreciating it as it is and the different variations of pizza.

                            I've seen much wetter and floppier versions. It's all relative and based on one's past experiences.

                            It's clear Neapolitan pizza isn't for everyone. Same with some regional Chinese food, or South American cuisine, or even French food. It's fine.

                            Complaining the pizza is too authentic is like complaining a Thai dish is too spicy or too pungent. Yeah we could dumb it down but then it wouldn't be authentic. Plenty of places doing crispy crust pizza. Go there.

                            1. re: Porthos

                              I mean this as no offense, but have you actually had Neapolitan pizza in Naples, or is this just an academic exercise for you? Just curious and looking for a point of reference.

                              I ask because I also find that Sotto does have slightly moister dough and center, even by Neapolitan standards. I'm a big fan of the place, but I hardly think they're an infallibile representation of some Platonic ideal of Neapolitan-style pizza. It's my cup of tea and then some, but I think it entirely reasonable that one can be an adoring fan of Neapolitan-style pizza and not think the world of Sotto's pizza. I'll eat their pie for them.

                              1. re: cacio e pepe

                                I admit, even though I know it's the style I would prefer the center be firmed up/dried out a bit more than one finds from these "homage to the classic" Neapolitan pie places we are seeing pop up everywhere.

                                1. re: Servorg

                                  +1

                                  I'm down for the style but there's definitely a point where it would be too soggy.

                                2. re: cacio e pepe

                                  No offense taken. Yes I have been to Naples. Did Brandi and Port'Alba. Bourdain wasn't around then to guide me to Da Michele. My visit was about 10 years ago. Even between those two there are differences in wetness of center. Though I suspect Brandi was already crisping up the crust for the tourists.

                                  I'm not claiming Sotto is ideal or the standard. I am defending them against acusations that they don't know how to make pizza.

                                  1. re: Porthos

                                    Fair enough. I fully agree that there are differences in pizzas, even within the Naples region. Sotto can *really* make a pizza, so the OPs contention was mainly just bluster. But they are very much open to criticism, even for their soupier centers. And I don't think it's a matter of education or getting the hang of something as a consumer. You've got some pretty knowledgable eaters in this thread alone claiming that Sotto crosses a line even for the trad Neapolitan pizza. They have some valid points.

                                    My primary, though minor, gripe with them is that I find their dough just a touch too moist and pillowy for me. I love the char, but I think there should be just the slightest bit more . . . crunch might be too strong of a word, but something to that effect. But the way that melted bufala and tomato come together is just heaven.

                                    Now the Sotto calzone is a different beast. I've only had it once, but it gushed so much trapped moisture after I sliced it open that the bottom nearly turned to mush. I could have been a bad night, but I haven't bothered with it since.

                                    1. re: cacio e pepe

                                      There's nothing I like better than a Chowhound dogfight over a specialty item.

                                      Assertion of world travel to home of the specialty item, establishing poster's chow cred - Check.

                                      Minute dissection of food item under discussion that doesn't come up to standard expected - Check.

                                      Passive aggressive dismissive response to comments that say they like said item under discussion - Check.

                                      I love Chowhound for the endless gifts it gives to brighten my dreary day at the computer

                                      1. re: Gypsy Jan

                                        You missed the kiss and make up part. Check.

                                        1. re: Gypsy Jan

                                          I love it. The thread finally went meta.

                                          You also forgot the deletion of half a dozen posts.

                            2. re: Servorg

                              "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
                              Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
                              The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
                              The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
                              The best lack all conviction, while the worst
                              Are full of passionate intensity"

                              --W.B. Yeats

                              1. re: New Trial

                                Yeats obviously had issues with this type of pizza too! ;-D>

                            3. re: Porthos

                              No, it's the dough. i have posted on this board that my 2 favorite neo pie places in greater LA are Olio and Settebello. Motorino on E 12 St in NYC arguably makes the best neo pie in NYC and their dough is firmer. Chris Bianco in Phoenix makes, IMO the BEST pie in the US and his dough is more firm than Motorino. Have you gone to Olio or Settebello and tried their pies? I think in all fairness you should if you haven't yet and give your report on what you eat.

                              1. re: pizzafreak

                                Haven't been to Settebello. Judging by yelp pics, it looks legit and I don't doubt they make a good pie.

                                I doubt the difference between the two is as great as Sotto can't make pizza and Settebello is stellar.

                                1. re: Porthos

                                  i've had both and i thought that sotto was miles ahead of settebello. a firmer crust doesn't make a better pizza. also, i've never had an issue eating sotto's pizza by hand.

                                  1. re: cdub

                                    a firmer crust doesn't make a better pizza
                                    ================================

                                    Bingo.

                                    Good to know. If I ever find myself in Pasadena some day, I may still give it a try. Although, if I drive all the way from OC to Pasadena, it's probably going to be for Laurent Quenioux's "Foodings" dinners if anything.

                                    1. re: Porthos

                                      Perhaps, generally a firmer crust doesn't make a better pizza. But, when you are already dealing with a wet center (per the traditional "way" of making this pizza) I am a "firm" believer in not getting the center turned into a soggy mess with too many additional high water content toppings. I'm sorry, but soupy pizza centers will never be my cup of tea, no matter how authentic or traditional or any other adjective you care to throw out in defense of the practice.

                                      1. re: Servorg

                                        but soupy pizza centers will never be my cup of tea, no matter how authentic or traditional or any other adjective you care to throw out in defense of the practice.
                                        ==============================
                                        And you don't have to. But you not liking it is very different from Sotto not knowing how to make pizza.

                                        Some people don't like Pann's. You do. It's all good.

                                        FWIW, josephnl and I had the same adamant discussions in 2009 over Ortica in OC and now he actually likes the style or at least doesn't hate it.

                                        Taste changes over time. Never say never. :-)

                                        1. re: Porthos

                                          " But you not liking it is very different from Sotto not knowing how to make pizza."

                                          In my opinion they (Sotto) are going a "bridge too far" with these overly wet toppings, especially considering the already traditional "wet center" and I do think that it is ill-considered in terms of deign AND execution on their part. If that's not akin to them not "knowing" how to make pizza it's at least a kissing cousin to that problem.

                                          1. re: Servorg

                                            Overly wet toppings like tomato sauce, fresh buffalo mozzarella, and premium olive oil?

                                            The cheaper commercial mozzarella oozes less water when cooking. I'd rather have fresh buffalo mozzarella.

                                            Darn Sotto for using fresh ingredients! ;-D>

                                            1. re: Porthos

                                              In degrees of caring/preference I'll take a non-soup pizza with slightly less fresh ingredients, if that's what it takes to keep me from being presented with something that Dan Aykroyd was whipping up as his character on SNL http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0BQFv8... using the Super Bass-o-Matic '76... ;-D>

                                          2. re: Porthos

                                            Yes, and now I too love the pies at Sotto. It took a while, but I've learned to actually prefer Neopolitan pizzas to more crispy pies.

                                        2. re: Porthos

                                          it's not to say settebello is bad. i actually think they're pretty good. i just don't think they're as good as sotto.

                                          1. re: cdub

                                            Count me in the group that prefers Settebello's pie to that of Sotto, though I like both very much.

                                            But if I'm going to Sotto, my first inclination is not to get pizza.

                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                              "But if I'm going to Sotto, my first inclination is not to get pizza."

                                              Along with my second, third and fourth...

                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                Agreed. It's the pastas that keep Sotto from leaving my rotation. I am a hopeless noodle slut, though.

                                                1. re: cacio e pepe

                                                  Gotta go back and get into the pastas there.

                                                  1. re: cacio e pepe

                                                    The rigatoni with chicken livers and roasted maitake mushrooms is my new favorite these days. Outstanding.

                                                    1. re: Porthos

                                                      It seems as if pasta is now following pizza when it comes to what I call exotic toppings. What's next?

                                                      1. re: pizzafreak

                                                        Can't wait to see.

                                                        I like both traditional and non traditional pastas. Carbonara or ahem, cacio e pepe in Rome or rigatoni with chicken livers and roasted maitake at Sotto. It's all good.

                                                        FWIW, even high temples of French Gastronomy are influenced by Japanese ingredients and techniques these days. It doesn't make it any less good. Actually better IMO.

                                                        1. re: Porthos

                                                          Sotto's pizza is in the wheelhouse, but flawed. Their pastas are great, though! In fact, I'd like to see them branch out more. SPQR, Perbacco, Cotogna, to name a few, in SF are just killing me with their pastas of late. I had a goose ragu with huckleberries on chestnut maltagliata that was outrageously good at Perbacco recently.

                                                          Besides, no one seems to be able to make a really stellar cacio e pepe, carbonara, etc., consistently. The amatriciana I had at Tasting Kitchen was, for me, a heartbreaking work of staggering ineptitude. I'd rather be surprised by a new combination than disappointed by a mediocre classic.

                                                          1. re: cacio e pepe

                                                            I actually like how the pasta at Sotto is more al dente than the ones at Cotogna (one of my current favorites in SF). The thing to get at Cotogna is the porchetta. Consistently on Friday nights. Get it early or reserve a portion.

                                                            I actually like Sotto's pizza more than Cotogna's which is more cal-med than classic Neapolitan.

                                                            Wish we had something along the vein of La Ciccia also which Sotto does a little of with the more Southern Italian bent. I'm okay with Osteria Mozza instead of Perbacco.

                                                            For the Roman classics, your best bet may be Osteria Mozza (eg bucatini all' amatriciana, bavette cacio e pepe). The linguine with clams was a bit of a mess the last time I had it. Weird since I remember it being very good. Maybe I'm confusing it with B&B in Vegas.

                                                            1. re: Porthos

                                                              Different animals entirely, Cotogna and Sotto. Both have their pasta charms. Haven't done the porchetta at Cotogna, yet, but I tend towards lower density proteins. I'll keep it on the radar, though.

                                                              Sotto certainly has been a breath a fresh air in that they seem to be one of the only places in LA that nods toward southern Italy with any skill, but I see more similarities between A16 and Sotto than La Ciccia. La Ciccia has a pretty singular focus. A16 and Sotto seem to be branch out more.

                                                              Now I'm dreaming of pasta . . . I've got to get out to Bestia and fast!

                                                              1. re: cacio e pepe

                                                                Ah, A16. Even I was complaining about the wet center at A16! Grew to like it though.

                                                                Below is a pic of the porchetta at Cotogna. About as high density as you can get. I actually just eat the cracking and the inside loin and pass on the rim of fat.

                                                                What's good at Bestia these days? Have yet to make it there.

                                                                 
                                                                1. re: Porthos

                                                                  Get the Cavatelli alla Norcina at Bestia.

                                                                  ricotta cavatelli, pork sausage, black truffles and grana padano.

                                                                  Absolutely dream-worthy.

                                                                  I also really like the chestnut pappardelle.

                                                                  Had the pizza once. Not my fav, so I'm giving them some time to work it out.

                                                                      1. re: Novelli

                                                                        Novelli, what happened to "Sotto serves up my favorite pizza in LA." in your below post? ;-)

                                                                        The cavatelli wasn't on the menu last weekend. I did have a hard enough time as it was. Tough keeping it down to just 3 pastas.

                                                                        Where is the charcuterie pic from? That looks pretty good itself!

                                                                        1. re: Porthos

                                                                          I'm sorry, I should have clarified.

                                                                          Those pics and pizza review are both from/about Bestia, as you had inquired about their dishes.

                                                                          Probably very off topic.LOL oops.

                                                                            1. re: Novelli

                                                                              Nice! Will stick to the pastas and avoid the pizza at Bestia. That cavatelli looks great! Thanks for the photos!

                                                                        2. re: Porthos

                                                                          It's not really the center for me at all. It's the dough hydration. I just think Sotto's is a bit too high. The soupy center totally works for me. I love when that fresh bufala melts into the sauce! A Neapolitan style margherita is my all time favorite.

                                                                          The porchetta looks . . . serious.

                                                                          1. re: cacio e pepe

                                                                            I agree with you that the cornicione is too pillowy and thick. I think that was actually them altering the Ortica formula to better satisfy the people who complained about the wet droopy center.

                                                                            Porchetta is no joke. Glorious with a nice burgundy from the Quince wine list next door. Not much else one needs at that point.

                                                                            1. re: Porthos

                                                                              Oh, god. Quince. Jesus. I gotta go plan a weekend trip, pronto.

                                                    2. re: cdub

                                                      Wow, i go away for a couple days and miss this heated pizza discussion...havent had a "too soupy" pie at Sotto in about 10 visits...love the pillowy chew of the crust...and great toppings though the sausage the 1st time was a bit too pink....Settebello, on 2 visits, provided 2 excellent margheritas w/ sausage...cant say Sotto was "way" better. Brad Kent at Olio also makes an excellent pie though i havent been there in a while...

                                                      1. re: lapizzamaven

                                                        Don't mind us. Just an academic nit-picking session.

                                2. You must be joking about the pizza right? The pork cheek pizza is fantastic. Sorry to hear the pork chop was undercooked. I have never had that experience.

                                  4 Replies
                                    1. re: Thor123

                                      Pork chop these days are cooked medium and even medium rare. Some people are squeamish about it. Some like you and I find it tender, moist, and delicious.

                                    2. Pizzafreak, regarding their pizza, youve got to back up a provocative statement like that!

                                      6 Replies
                                      1. re: lapizzamaven

                                        Servorg nailed it when he said "Although the pizza we had on my visit was so wet I would have had to roll up like a Pillsbury Crescent roll in order to eat it by hand." I'm really surprised that you of all people, one who knows that good pizza is all about the crust, not the toppings, really likes the crust that Sotto puts on your plate.

                                        1. re: pizzafreak

                                          Simply wrong. Generally not soggy and some of the best pizza in LA.

                                          1. re: Thor123

                                            Explain "generally not soggy, " because generally means "in most cases". Are you saying that sometimes the pie IS too soggy? All the naysayers say it is too soggy and too soft. And I'm sure we were not all there on the same day.

                                            1. re: pizzafreak

                                              You know, we just don't "get it" - at least I won't be getting that particular pizza again...(g)

                                              1. re: pizzafreak

                                                Poor choice of words. I have never had a pizza at Sotto that I found to be too soggy and never had anyone I have dined with their voice that opinion either. I thiks its one of the best pizzas in town and consistently outstanding. Not at all like 800 Degrees which is wet soggy.

                                              2. re: Thor123

                                                when i tried it the crust was not soggy.
                                                it should be noted, though, that i had the margherita.

                                          2. Glad you enjoyed your meal.

                                            Sotto serves up my favorite pizza in LA.

                                            1. Sotto's pork meatballs are absolutely fantastic, in my opinion. I could probably eat about 20 of them.