What does Sotto, the sleek southern Italian restaurant located, somewhat New York style, in a cozy elegant below street level space, have in common with Eat Pray Love, the film adapted from the popular memoir of the same name by Elizabeth Gilbert, starring Julia Roberts on a post-divorce odyssey? It’s the pizza, and to be more precise, pizza in the style of Naples, where arguably the best pizza in the world comes from.
Short of hopping on a plane for the superb Margherita pie enjoyed by Julia Roberts’s character at the world famous Da Michele, Sotto is not only the best bet for locals to get their Neopolitan fix, it might just be serving the best Naples-style pizza in Southern California. That’s because the chef-owners, Steve Samson and Zach Pollack (previously of Pizzeria Ortica in Costa Mesa), brought in Neopolitan craftsmen to build a traditional wood burning oven in which they use only white oak and cook the pizzas at 900˚. The resulting pies are blistered, soft, chewy, and pliable, with crisp bits and a moist center. And while the house made toppings, including unctious guanciale (cured pork jowl) and fresh sausage pungent with fennel, are delicious, we suggest starting with the rustic simplicity of the Margherita pie, where the rich, sweet flavors of the sauce, fresh Mozarella, basil and extra virgin olive oil provide a luscious counterpoint to the bitter char on the cornicione, the toothsome raised outer crust.
Other delights that emerge from the Sotto oven are the house baked bread, delicious on its own, with meltingly soft house made head cheese, or, perhaps most decadent of all, whipped lardo (pork fat cured in marble with rosemary). Also not to be missed are the tender, flavorful grilled pork meatballs, and the spicy clams in guazetto with ‘nduja, a Calabrasian spreadable salami that oozes chili heat into the delectable clam broth. These standouts on the well-curated menu aside, it’s LA’s best pizza that keeps us coming back.
For maximum enjoyment, we recommend gathering an intimate group of friends and ordering family style so that every one has a chance to try the hearty, southern Italian fare, but the key is to save room for the Margherita. Then, after dinner and before the movie, find the best gelato possible (in Los Angeles, unquestionably at Bulgarini Gelato) and luxuriate while watching the film. Who knows, maybe you’ll recover in time to snack on your left over Margherita while Julia enjoys hers.
Contemporary southern Italian that turns out the best pizza in LA.
Blistered little gems, grilled pork meatballs, Margherita pizza, homage to Caizzo (calzone).
Dim and modern, but inviting and unpretentious.
Friendly and knowledgeable.
Loud during peak lunch/dinner hours.
9575 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90035 (310) 277-0210 www.sottorestaurant.com
Open Tues-Thurs 5:30pm-10pm, Wed-Fri 12pm-2pm, Fri-Sat 5:30pm-11pm. Valet and street parking. Reservations accepted. Credit cards accepted.
8686 Washington Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232 (310) 815- 1723 www.bulgarinigelato.com
Mon-Tue 7:30am-6pm, Wed-Fri 7:30am-8pm, Sat 9am-10pm, Sun 11am-6pm. Credit Cards accepted.
Recommended gelato: Pistachio, hazelnut, chocolate orange, goat milk with cocoa nibs, olive oil and yogurt, seasonal fruit.
L’ANTICA PIZZERIA DA MICHELE
Via Cesare Sersale 1 80139 Napoli 081 5539204 www.damichele.net
Mon-Sat 10:30am-11:30pm. No reservations. Cash only.
Recommended: The famous Margherita, of course.
EAT PRAY LOVE – (2010) Directed by Ryan Murphy. Written by Ryan Murphy and Jennifer Salt. Based on the book by Elizabeth Gilbert. Starring Julia Roberts, Billy Crudup, Viola Davis, James Franco.