Sotto Sotto has been an Italian staple in Yorkville since 1993. Its original location was just a few doors down from this current place on Avenue Rd., before it succumbed to a fire.
What used to be a subterranean, cave-like space now occupies the ground and second floors of a whole house, along with a small front patio.Thanks to curtains aplenty for creating privacy, this intimate spot is a celebrity magnet, as evidenced by the walls covered in photos of pretty much any Hollywood movie star one can possibly think of.
My dining companion and I perch ourselves at the bar, where the bartender creates a few fun off-menu cocktails, including a tricolour, layered sangria that’s meant to represent the green-white-red of the Italian flag.
Known for old-school Italian food, chefs Massimo Renzi and Luigi Sellaro are cooking up Roman-style fare. Owner Marisa Rocca is originally from Rome, and in addition to whole grilled fish and veal scaloppine, her mother’s “Bolognese Mamma Laura” lasagna is a regular favourite.
To start, we get the bruschetta al pomodoro ($5.95). Slices of soft, fresh bread are drizzled in olive oil and ideal for heaping on spoonfuls of chopped tomato.
Capesante alla Piastra ($35.95), or pan-seared sea scallops, follow. The meaty scallops are cooked perfectly – they’re well seasoned, have a nice sear on the outside and are mouthwateringly tender inside.
Another seafood dish, Gamberoni Vashera ($36.95), consists of grilled black tiger shrimp seasoned Mediterranean-style with Sotto’s “secret” seafood dressing (they won’t tell me what’s in it).
As a carb lover, the Bucatini all’Amatriciana ($20.95), a Roman classic, is simple yet deeply satisfying. The fat, hollow strands of pasta are covered in tomato sauce, basil, smoky bits of guanciale and Pecorino cheese, and it’s all topped with soft and creamy burrata that’s delivered weekly from Italy.
We finish with Abbacchio della Taverna ($47.95), grilled rack of lamb with herbs and garlic in a red wine reduction. The tender, medium-rare meat tastes subtly gamey, and comes on a bed of mushrooms, rapini and potato.
Our visit doesn’t result in any celeb sightings, but perhaps next time we’ll catch a glimpse of the 6 God here, “just talkin’ women and vino.”