Sotto is Salty and Not So Special
I had a very marginal dinner experience there. First, my pasta Calabresi was so salty I sent it back. I tried to substitute in the pork meatballs which I expressly requested be well done. They were pink so I sent those back too.
The spicy clams were the only standout (I found nothing special in the casarecce or Diavolina pizza, which was also salty, and the pizza at Stella Rosa and Milo and Olive is better).
It's also pretty loud in there. I won't be back.
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My last time there was also too salty. I haven't been back, which is what happens when I have a salty experience - it's difficult to forget that awful bite.
This place is so overrated. Especially the pork chop which I ordered back in December. Not much flavor at all. Pretty one-note. The pastas were extremely salty. I liked the bread though. Service was iffy and the location is sad. Won't be back.
When were you there? Seven of us went Fri.. It kind of confirmed my previous feelings. It's good, some dishes quite good, but for me it has some issues.
I had not noticed the salt thing previously, but a few of our dishes were over-salted in the opinion of a few of us. I still think their pizza dough is tasty, the crown is good, but some combination of the toppings and the center crust cooking make it soggy in the middle. It doesn't matter to me that I've had similar pizzas in Italy, it's a bit soggy to be ideal to me.
We've discussed it before here, but the place is way too noisy. Everyone in our eight took issue with it even though we were lucky enough to be way back in a corner. We even chose to cram seven of us into two tables and slide one off rather than the three they set because we couldn't hear one another. Even still there were moments of just smiling and nodding as one couldn't make out what someone at the other end of the table was saying.
Personally, again my opinion, but I don't love the wine program. I don't like the selections and the service isn't top-notched. Mind you, we did bring two bottles, but we also bought one and aside from the initial glass poured out of the white off the list, we never had anyone try to pour wine or ask if we wanted anything else.
I like the place, but it sometimes seems they don't take the utmost in care. Probably doesn't matter as they can still pack them in. I think Bestia has overtaken it in my book.
Yes Porthos I looked at the captain's list. It's not a terrible list and I agree there is some stuff with at least a little age. Though I'm used to drinking Italian reds with even more age ie the 99 Valdicava Brunello we brought. I think some of the whites there are ok, but in reality they're $12-14 wholesale wines selling for $50. That policy is not unique to them.
I have a thing about winelists that are limited in their selections and represent the preference of the somm/creator moreso than what the broad public woul like to drink. I fully realize that they make their selections based upon the food and geography. But, you aren't going to find the same food in the north and south of Italy and you're rarely going to find Friulian wines in Sicily so why bother with the convention.
Real lean Italian whites don't float my boat as they do with others. I can't wait for the orange and oxidative wine craze to die down. I would prefer to drink a Brunello with their pork chop despite it perhaps not being the ideal match for the dish or regionally correct. At times I want to try something unknown but at times not especially if I'm going to reach into triple digit pricing. Especially so if I am with less experienced drinkers. I have respect for the passion and preference of somms, but in all honesty I don't have great luck trying wines from esoteric lists that are pitched to me. In a nutshell I'd like to see a broader list. If someone wants Barolo with southern italian food, let them order it. Bestia is actually worse than Sotto in this regard. Nowhere near enough selections.
The other aspect of the wine at Sotto and a number of places these days is that IMO the somm knows the wines, can handsell, and knows fine wine service. But the waitstaff is not as knowledgeable. When it gets busy one guy can't handle all the qulaity wine service. I am sure that the servers are supposed to help but it can fall through the crack. Again this isn't unique to Sotto. But if you're going to sell $100+ bottles and you're going to charge $25 corkage, you should be providing attentive wine service. When it's busy someohow it doesn't happen. Providence is a bit of a different beast than Sotto, but we were there Monday and they obviously train everyone in the place to attend to wine service as much as food service. Providence also does not stick to a bottle limit of two for corkage whether the party is two or eight, but that's a separate discussion.
re: john gonzales
Providence and Sotto are two different levels of dining for me. Providence is 2-3x the price of Sotto so the level of execution should be more refined and attentive. I can get out of Sotto at $100pp for 2 easily without wine. For me, I don't mind pouring my own wine if the waiters are too busy. I especially don't mind it at a casual spot like Sotto. I've probably poured my own wine at pretty much every restaurant in LA from Providence to Hatfield's to Gjelina to Osteria Mozza to Red Medicine. Especially when I BYO. Speaking of which, corkage is free only on Mondays at Providence and according to Opentable, not even an option for a party of 10.
I'm a Burg guy and I don't drink much Italian, but when I do, it's Piedmont. So I hear ya. However, I don't mind a list like the one at Sotto because it forces me to pick outside my comfort zone and try something new. I have been pleasantly surprised each time. Once I even found something from 97 around $80: tannins resolved, a little bit of secondary characteristics, nice fruit, and went well with the meal. My first few times there, I told the sommelier I was a burg guy and asked if he could recommend something I might enjoy. He did and I've really enjoyed sifting through the captain's list with his help since. Like you said, Bestia is much worse in terms of selection, the corkage is now $30, and they also have a 2 bottle limit. The pastas at Bestia are awesome. Hard for me to pick a favorite. The pizza, is much more wet than Sotto, even too wet for me.
The markup is 3-4x but as you have already mentioned, that is pretty much policy everywhere in LA. Not to mention it's near impossible to find anything with some age and even more difficult not to get gouged even more for the aged wine. I too am bringing my own these days and don't care if anyone charges me $40 corkage. In fact, I feel less guilty if they do.
Hope this doesn't come across as me being a shill as I have nothing to gain from it. Also, I hope you don't take my defense of Sotto as a critique against your valid points.