Lets start with dessert. I have been a cannoli connoisseur since 1997. In my 6 years living here in Los Angeles I’ve uncovered ZERO cannoli spots. Italian restaurants, bakeries, cafes…Nothing of note. I’ve gone as far as having people fly me cannoli’s back from their trips to New York, Boston and Miami. It wasn’t until a recent trip to Beverly HIlls that I discovered an Italian kitchen called Sotto on Pico just off Beverwil. Sotto’s cannoli has a thinner and flakier crust inspired by traditional Sicilian recipes. According to the chef, they use red wine instead of marsala or cooking wine (shows what I know…Had no idea you needed wine to make crust!). The typical LA cannoli would involve one of those disgusting maraschino cherries or flakes of green-dyed coconut (Bay Cities…barf!). Here we have ends covered in coarse crumbles of pistachio and what looks like the cannoli was used for a q-tip. That isnt ear wax though, its fresh orange marmalade; a truly toothsome touch. The ricotta custard within is cool, fresh, dotted with crumbled chocolate chips and filled into shells on the spot. In my 15 years of cannoli connoisseurship I have not enjoyed a finer specimen.
My LuncHaimers…I’m starting to feel like you all think I am like the Double Rainbow Guy of food reviews. Think of me what you will, but have I steered you wrong? Lest the streak remain unfettered when I unveil to you Sotto’s Cauliflower Almond Zuppa: (pureed cauliflower and almond, chilies, capers, raisins, onion, garlic, honey). You look at it, you think cream. You taste it, you think cream. No cream. Supposedly, the almonds are cooked down and pureed with the cauliflower. The pureed almonds’ oils and fats provide the illusion of cream while your buds are smacked around with salty sweetness, herbs, charred capers and raisins. Served with toasted bread that stays crunchy despite the flavorful soup it soaks up. I deliver no lies. It is the best soup I’ve ever had that wasn’t Ramen or Pho. (But do you really count those as soups?)
Blistered Little Gems salad: slightly charred wedges of fresh greens covered with anchovy garlic pestata and breadcrumbs. The flavors going on in this simple yet extravagant appetizer are ones I strongly recommend your taste buds reckon with. The garlic and anchovy fillets when ground down to a paste go incredible together. The dish says bread crumbs, but they aren’t your typical bread crumbs. It more resembles a very soft sand with a completely pleasant texture rather than grit. The dish is drizzled in what I would imagine is some high quality olive oil and topped with thin slabs of freshly grated aged Caprino Sardo. The cheese, olive oil, garlic anchovy paste, bread crumbs and charred greens come to life in your mouth to form a flavor equation that must be broken down and experienced. I don’t think I’ve ever written such mouthwatering prose about a salad in my life.
Oh right, Sotto also fires Neopolitan style pizzas (probably what they are most known for in Los Angeles). Pictured above is Salsiccia e friarielli. I am a rapini lover and the crumbled sausage could not be a finer dance partner for rapini’s wilted waltz atop the pizza dance floor. The dough resembles thin crust but is by no means crisp or flakey. Instead the doughy foundation is the right combo and fluff and chew. Fired in Sotto’s high quality wood burning furnace, the final product comes out with charred imperfections which gives the pizza a surprising subtle crunch while the insides remain pillow soft. The chilies and mozz congeal the pizza’s Italian harmony.
In a city with notoriously bad pizza noteriety, the first question is: Is it the best pizza in LA? I’m telling you it is up there. But regardless of where or how you rank the pizza, Sotto is so much more than a swanky pizza parlor. Get to Sotto, stat!