Review: Sotto

One of my mum’s favorite restaurants in the city is Sotto, a very popular, rustic Italian restaurant nestled in a moody basement on East 6th Street in downtown Cincinnati. She dreams of their cacio e pepe (and was devastated when they took it off their menu!) and loves that they have great options for vegetarians.

Of course, when we heard that the restaurant was opening for lunch for a limited time over the holidays, we jumped at the chance to go.

We were seated next to a cave of wine close to the kitchen, which made for a neat ambiance. The restaurant has so many cool nooks and crannies – it’s a very unique place to dine, and is extremely trendy! Unfortunately, since I was only on a short break from work, we couldn’t imbibe, but I bet our meal would have gone really well with a delicious glass of red.

We started with the goat cheese and hazelnut honey bruschetta. It was a beautiful presentation and the cheese was absolutely delicious. Unfortunately, the lunch portion was heavy on the cheese and light on the bread – we would have loved to have had a couple more slices!

When you dine at a restaurant like Sotto, you do expect a certain level of service. It’s an upscale restaurant – and this wasn’t a cheap lunch. Unfortunately, our experience this go-round fell a bit flat. When we finished eating our bruschetta, we placed our knives on our side plates. Our server quickly collected the plates, but placed the knives (which were still coated in cheese – we didn’t have enough bread!) directly on the wood table. This created a bit of a mess, which he later came back and cleaned up (and finally replaced our dirty knives with clean ones). Another tricky moment was when we were ordering our main course – I was struggling to decide between two pastas. I asked our server which dish he recommended, since usually, that can help you find some hidden gems that you would have otherwise overlooked. Unfortunately, he stumbled over a response. He did explain what each dish was, but never really gave me a direct answer about his recommendations.

I ended up opting for the short rib cappellacci, a dish I had tried before, and knew I loved. The sauce will have you licking the bowl – it’s that good! – and you can tell that the cappellacci are made with care in-house. Is there anything better than fresh pasta? I think not. I wish there had been a few more cappellacci in my bowl, but overall, I really liked this dish.

Again with the service: I had just about finished my meal when our server whizzed by and whisked away my bowl. And with that, our lunch was over!

While our meal was good, and better than many Italian restaurants I’ve tried in the city (read: fresh pasta!), I believe I’m in the minority when it comes to my feelings about Sotto. To me, it is the weakest of David Falk’s restaurants. That’s not to say that it’s bad – it’s a lovely dining experience! – but it isn’t the best Italian spot in the city, and isn’t as inventive as Boca and Nada. Some things about it, including the service and the presentation of the food, feel a bit below caliber compared to David Falk’s usual standards. At this price range, those things count. My expectations are high when I come to Sotto, and while I always have a pleasant experience, I never feel truly wowed (like I so often do at Falk’s other restaurants).

I say all of this knowing that many of my friends and family will whole-heartedly disagree, so I leave you with this disclaimer: other foodies I know adore this restaurant, so if you love homemade Italian food, please go and try it for yourself. I can’t wait to hear what you think!

Until next time,