Sotto had been recommended to me by someone whose taste in restaurants I totally trust. So, a couple of pals and I finally headed over to its Beverly Hills adjacent location on Pico last week to check it out. We had high hopes, but came away totally disappointed by most of the experience.
There was nothing I liked about this place, at all, except for the manager, Andrew, who knows how to treat his customers.
First of all, Sotto is definitely not the place to go if you have even a glimmer of hope of having a conversation with your dinner companions. Our trio had been totally looking forward to catching-up on so many things, but we could barely hear a word each one was saying! Even worse, the servers didn’t even try to talk louder, nor come over to each one of us to answer questions. They basically planted their feet in one spot, and made it the customers’ responsibility to scream their queries over to them. Shameful service.
Speaking of shameful service, they never once refilled the water, brought us bread, or asked us how anything is. (The manager finally did at one point, and trust me, he got an earful from me! I wouldn’t have said anything, but I don’t lie when people ask me how everything is.)
Okay, I’ll finish up with the service, then move on to the food. We waited about forty-five minutes for the entrees! And no one ever came over to apologize for the delay, nor to even explain! (There was no explanation, by the way, but they didn’t even care enough to make something up, to assuage our displeasure.) When they finally brought David’s tiny fish, and the pork “porterhouse,” (which I’m referring to as a “chop” from here on out,) that John and I were sharing, (which they knew we were doing, because…the waiter is the one who suggested we do so!,) we had to send the chop back to be cut, so we could share it. I cannot even believe that a restaurant that has been opened for seven years, that even told us the chop was so big it had to be shared, thought that the customers were going to cut it up themselves!!! In the basically pitch dark that Sotto is!!! Unfathomable!
And guess what? It took them another half hour to cut the chop!!! And, sadly, I’m not exaggerating, even a tiny bit. David’s fish took two seconds to eat, and they brought the potatoes (our lone side dish) right after his fish, so they were cold by the time John and I even began cutting our pork, and poor David was all done!
Okay, let’s talk about the taste of it all. I say, never trust an Italian eatery that doesn’t even have spaghetti and meatballs on its menu! Yes, they do have pork meatballs as an appetizer, and I suppose you could ask them to pair it with some pasta, but really? First I have to cut my own giant chop, and beg for bread and water, and now I have to put my own basic Italian dish together for them??? I think not.
The menu is very limited. And weird. Most of the appetizers are vegetables, which should be the side dishes, not the starters! (The actual note I wrote that night is that that’s “the stupidest thing,” an assessment I stand by.) We all thought the carrots were really good, the pea combo (with ingredients we could not identity either by taste or in the dark,) was okay (how can you go wrong with peas?,) and John said his octopus was just “good.”
David liked his two bites of striped bass well enough, and the pork (once they cut it) was just okay in my book, but John liked it more than that. Even in the dark, I could tell that the sides were full of fat (and that’s the part they coated! Go figure!) But when I took a few pieces home, in the light of day I saw that they had a lot of fat throughout! Ugh!!! (By the way, this is how dark it is in Sotto—I tried to flag down a customer for help because, in that low light, he resembled the manager!)
The fingerling potatoes with cheese sprinkled on them (that are erroneously described as “crispy”; ours were definitely not,) were probably the best part of the meal. (And there were only two other sides!!! Oysh. How limited can you get?)
And the very brief menu is way too full of fennel, grated cheese, and chilies. A little more variety of ingredients would have been nice.
Here’s where I have to laud Andrew for doing the right thing. He knew how unhappy we were with our entire dining experience at Sotto, so he sent us desserts, on them, though neither of which are anything I eat! And dessert is the only reason I eat the food that comes before it! Andrew very wisely asked if we had any food allergies before he chose sweets for us, but I was already so disgusted that I didn’t even think to tell him what I don’t like. So he sent ice cream that looked like chocolate but had coffee in it, which I detest. If I had tried even a tiny bite, my whole month would have been ruined!!! The other had the tantalizing moniker, Buttermilk Zeppole, but “zeppole” is just fried dough, another one of the “foods” (and I use the term loosely) I hate. I looked at Sotto’s dessert menu on-line when I got home, to see what I had missed, and the answer is—not a thing!
In the good-for-them column, Andrew also took the pork chop off our bill, because we were so disappointed in our entire adventure with that dish. And that was the most expensive thing on there! That lovely move was totally unexpected, and very appreciated. That guy knows how to do business! We would have never gone back there, but because of his good gestures, we just might. But this time we’ll stick to the pizzas! There’s no way they can goof those up. Or can they?!
The funniest thing happened on the way out, that made the whole struggle of an evening worth it for me. Sotto was pretty packed all night, but as we exited, my producer friend turned to me and said he was disappointed because “no one was there.” And I knew exactly what he meant—no one we were interested in bumping into, i.e. “in the biz,” was there! And that was even worse than the mediocre food and awful service combined! And you know I’m not kidding.