If you live in LA then you have no excuse not to dine at Sotto. It is one of the best Italian meals I have had outside of Italy. Period.

Lately I have often been wondering why I have failed to be impressed by the food at a lot of places that get a lot of hype. Sure good wine can often carry a mediocre meal, but what happens when the food goes beyond, and the wine happens to go beyond as well. I tell you what can happen. Magic.

And the magic is happening at Sotto, and if you do not know about Sotto, you should. If you live in the greater Los Angeles area get thee to Sotto post haste is all I can say (but will say a bit more). If you live elsewhere, and happen to find yourself in L.A. it is not to be missed. Having now dined there twice, I know that what we experienced was not a fluke. Sotto is firing on all cylinders and there is magic in the air, and you can feel it.

When we dined there for the second time, dish after dish was just utterly simple and utterly perfect. There are many things on the menu you see elsewhere in most Italian restaurants: pizza, pasta, meatballs, etc. But at Sotto there is loving care behind all the dishes. It the kind of stuff an Italian grandmother would spend all day preparing in the kitchen. I kept trying to see if they were keeping a Nonna back there somewhere, perhaps secretly turning out the goodness that seemingly eminates everywhere at Sotto. But in fact it is chefs Zach Pollack and Steve Samson who are behind what is, for my money, the best Italian I have had anywhere in a long time.

I cannot go on and on about every dish we had because we were eight, and we tried a great deal of the menu. I can say that everything was equally perfect and delicious. So that leads me to the wine. I have discussed the wine list before, which is curated by Do Bianchi’s Jeremy Parzin. It is not huge, but it is an impeccably well chosen selection concentrating on Southern Italy with a bit of California thrown in for good measure. It concentrates on mostly natural, organic, and traditional producers. Suffice it to say, it would be impossible to go wrong. And we did not go wrong at all. We shared and tasted many bottles and glasses. The whites were delicious, and the reds magical. There’s that magic again. Truly, we tasted things we had never tasted before. At one point we just had different glasses lined up and we would just smell them, all the wines just seemed to leap from the glass. They were so good that we really didn’t want to even finish them, does that make sense? I kind of think it does.

Here the list of all the magical wines we tried at Sotto and the story in pictures.  Ciao!

Tramonti Bianco 2010 Costa d’ Amalfi

Fratelli Urciuolo Fiano di Avellino

Al Cantara “Lu Veru Pianin” Etna Rosso

Fatalone 2005 “Gioia del Colle” Riserva Primitivo

Dettori 2005 Cannonou “Tuderi”

Stuzziero Taurasi 2001 Campoceraso

Stuzziero Taurasi 1997 Villafosca

Stuzziero Taurasi 1993 Campoceraso

Graticciaia 2005

Graticciaia 2006

The creator of the very fine Sotto wine list, noted wine blogger, musician, scholar, and all around great guy, Jeremy Parzin.

I loved this Falanghina blend from Tramonti Bianco on the Amalfi Coast from go. So simple and delicious. At first sip I though, where can I get my hands on this wine.

This Octopus dish smelled like heaven. Sad to say the rest of the table had at it and I got none. It looked as good as it smelled and tasted as much too I'm sure. Octopus, next time your mine!

The first red of the night, an Etna Ross from Al Cantara. No bias being of Sicilian descent, but I am living for a lot of Sicilian wines these days, especially those grown on Mount Etna's volcanic soils.

Truth be known, I am not a huge meatball lover. But I have to say the meatballs at Sotto are insane. They are light and airy and savory and delicious. They disappeared immediately and everyone was asking for more. Hands down best meatball ever.

Jeremy was positively giddy about pouring this wine for us. That kind of enthusiasm is infectious. A 2004 Primitivo Riserva from Fatalone. I tend to dismiss Primitivo's as they seem to often be overdone and insipid. Not so here. Elegance and depth and refinement and personality beyond words. Best Primitivo I've ever had, hands down.

And lest we forget to mention, the Primitivo is organic. Like many of the wines at Sotto, Jeremy has put a strong emphasis on organic, natural, and respectfully traditional producers. Perhaps that explains why every wine we tried was so damn good.

While there are many "tests" of a restaurant's merit, the bread is perhaps the most telling. And let me tell you, the bread at Sotto is some of the best bread I have had anywhere, let alone a restaurant. It has a hearty character, a smokey crustiness on the outside, and a perfectly chewy inside. This bread is like "buttah". If my dad was there I am not sure he would even care if he got beyond the bread. Awesomeness.

All the homemade bread and pizzas are done right there in that wood burning oven. I had the pleasure of only sitting a few feet from it and was treated to the smokey delicious aromas throughout the meal.