99 Essential Restaurants 2014

Sotto

photo by Anne Fishbein

Even with our current glut of shiny new Italian restaurants, Sotto still seems like the most exciting, most fully realized rustic-Italian joint in town. In the three years since it’s been open in the bottom half of a Pico-Robertson duplex (downstairs from Picca), Sotto chefs Steve Samson and Zach Pollack have steadily stuck to their vision of serving the food of Southern Italy, filtered through the lens of Los Angeles sensibilities. So that means fantastic, crisp-bottomed pizzas cooked in an oven imported from Italy. It means gorgeous pastas bathed in meaty ragus. And it means hearty, bold dishes like clams in a wickedly spicy broth, or pulled lamb’s neck nestled among the leaves of a perky parsley salad. A smart cocktail program, fantastic wine list and genuinely good service make Sotto shine bright, maybe even more so because of all those newcomers: No one who’s come along since does it better.

-- Besha Rodell