ravioli nudi – spinach, ricotta
Last night I had dinner with Betty White and Jennifer Love Hewitt. Ok, not really, but I sat across from them in the dining room where I watched them talk, laugh and eat like normal people.
It all happened after my group walked into Sotto Sotto and approached the hostess stand. As I told the hostess the name of our party, I turned around, and suddenly my mind went blank. Within arms reach, there she was. “Is…is…is…that Betty White?” I asked my friend. She didn’t hear me, too busy looking at the person next to Betty asking herself, “Is…that Jennifer Love Hewitt?”
The hostess led us to our table, and for the next ten minutes the three of us at the table giggled, texted, and stared. We were the only college kids in the restaurants, and compared to the oh-it’s-ONLY-Betty-White-and-Jennifer-Love-Hewitt-no-big-deal faces everyone else was fronting, it was apparent we were the wide-eyed Nemo’s in a sea of veteren tortoises.
Celebrity sightings aside, dinner at Sotto Sotto was a much-needed reminder that there is more to the world than cafeteria food. In the context of Atlanta’s culinary scene, the experience was a reminder that there are indeed a few truly excellent neighborhood restaurants in this sprawling city.
As far as decor goes, little has changed since I dined here with my family, then a boy still in love with Funyuns and Power Rangers. Sotto Sotto is romantically dark with spotlights aimed at the center of tables covered in stark white wax paper. Governing the dining room is an intentionally rustic wall looking unpainted and broken down as if a relic from the previous tenant who occupied the space.
risotto mantecato, carnaroli rice, caramelized onions, 12yr balsamic, Reggiano
At the top of this post you see the ravioli nudi, delicate globes of spinach and ricotto resting in a kiddie pool of butter. It’s pure spinach heaven but also light and airy even with the butter and cheese. In the way of Betty White and divine beings, the risotto mantecato presented caramelized onions in a way I didn’t think possible. They are, after all, just caramelized onions, but somehow Sotto Sotto has used them to create a dish worth dying for. Seriously. Worth dying for.
tortelli di michelangelo, veal, chicken, pork ravioli in butter-sage sauce.
Although the pasta was slightly tougher than I prefer, the tortelli was, again, a dish brimming with attitude and distinction. The three fillings were in tune with one another while the butter-sage sauce did not hold back. It’s not hard to see why Michel Angelo favored these pillows of heaven.
Against the backdrop of the nudi and risotto, the Pappardelle al Sugo d’ Anatra with braised duck ragu was not nearly as impressive but nonetheless very good. Gentle sheets of pasta with tender duck in an understated tomato sauce was an elegant way to go about Italian food without crossing spaghetti and meatballs.
The one dish ordered from the secondi menu was the salmone arrosto, a large pan seared Scottish salmon with a light salad of raisins and roasted potatoes. This was salmon cooked and seasoned at its finest, the outside seared to crispness to contrast with a gentle interior. The raisins added a surprising kick to the fish.
Now breathe. Here come the desserts.
chocolate soup with hazelnuts: decadent and rich and possibly too heavy to finish.
dolce al mascarpone – Sotto Sotto’s version of tiramisu. A simple and light union of rum and mascarpone that is the best way to finish a carb-heavy dinner. Almost refreshing, certainly wonderful.
white chocolate bread pudding – light, fluffy and not so sweet you need to see a dentist afterwards. Very well balanced.
And that was it. This review is longer than most because the food being reviewed was better than most. I could have given each dish one sentence each before moving on, but this was a rare case where the food looked as good as it tasted. Dinner was a rare occasion when every course was as good, if not better, than the next, and it’s this kind of one-upmanship that makes Sotto Sotto a place worth all the praise this city can give.
FYI, I totally shook hands with Betty White, Jennifer Love Hewitt and her boyfriend, Alex Beh. Betty White is as adorable and pleasant on stage as she is off stage. As for Jennifer Love Hewitt, she is quite the beauty…