The food: pasta with minty, lemony lamb ragu
While in L.A. in February, my husband E and I had lunch at Sotto, a newish spot located just south of Beverly Hills that serves what it calls “an honest, market-driven menu of regionally-inspired Southern Italian dishes.” Though the restaurant’s press had trumpeted its imported brick-by-brick from Italy pizza oven, we had sated our appetites for Neapolitan-style pizza earlier that week at Pizzeria Mozza, so we went for an extra-long hike that morning to pre-emptively burn off some calories, and both ordered from the $22 prix fixe menu offered during dineLA’s Restaurant Week.
To start, we had the shaved beet and mixed lettuce salad (with wheatberries, lemon vinaigrette, and Fiore Sardo) which was fresh-tasting, if a little boring:
and the very delicious and very rich cauliflower almond zuppa with chilies, capers, sultanas and, if I’m not mistaken, heavy cream:
Our mains were a crispy pork belly porcetto sandwich with pickled vegetable giardiniera to which I was indifferent (not being big on pork belly ):
and a small and again very rich serving of casarecce pasta with braised lamb ragu, egg, and pecorino that was lovely and bright despite its richness, due to the addition of lemon, maybe, or fresh mint, or both.
We had desserts too (!): a dense bittersweet chocolate crostata with hazelnuts and salted rosemary caramel, and a cannoli siciliani that was billed as having been filled with ricotta, orange marmalade, pistachios, and chocolate, but tasted overwhelmingly of its deep-fried pastry shell.
I, too, was overwhelmed by this intense, creamy meal. But a few weeks later, at home in Toronto, I had fond memories of Sotto’s pasta with lamb ragu. So, though I rarely eat or cook lamb, I bought some, prepared a Giada de Laurentiis recipe for lamb ragu with mint and ricotta to which I added a lemon’s worth of lemon zest, and mixed it up with some President’s Choice black label Fiorelli pasta. The result didn’t quite measure up to Sotto’s version – next time I may subsititute an egg for the ricotta – but after eating a modest portion of it with a fresh green salad, I didn’t feel the need for a strenuous two or three hour hike afterwards either.