Well, I can officially say that I was at Sotto Sotto, just talkin’ women and vino. A hangout for Drake (among other celebrities), the Italian restaurant is known for bringing a bit of Italian romance to the 6ix. An escape from the outside world, the restaurant promises a fabulous Italian meal with a chic, Mediterranean vibe to match it. While it’s been on my “to-try list,” I had yet to find the right occasion, but low and behold, I’m back on my bullsh*t and dating in Toronto, which is precisely how I found myself scoping out Sotto Sotto.
A staple of Yorkville since 1993, founder Marisa Rocca is a Roman expat that created the restaurant in an act of sheer fearlessness. A young immigrant with a dream, the story of Sotto Sotto speaks to the successes of women in food as it’s become one of the most beloved restaurants in the city. If nothing else, this alone makes me want to love the restaurant, but I am all about getting the full picture.
Not really knowing what to expect, I came to Sotto Sotto with a bit of skepticism since it seems like everyone has a different idea of what Italian food should be, which I guess is valid, but it’s hard to define something as the end all and be all. Anyways, after learning about my adventures in Italy, I was offered the chance to dine at Sotto Sotto as a (sort of) first date. Crazy? Maybe. But, who am I to turn down a meal at a place I’ve been wanting to check out for so long? I digress…
Walking in, the space is quite gorgeous. Crystal chandeliers hang from every light fixture but that doesn’t mean that the decor feels cheap. In fact, the restaurant has sort of a funky, contemporary style that's quite chic. Beyond a corner bar lined with colourful bottles and nestled behind black draping curtains are the dining areas.
As we sat down, I took a quick scan of the room (because you never know), before diving into the food and drink menus. With all the antipasti, insalate, carni, pesci and pasta dishes, the choices were tough, but after much deliberation, my date and I were finally able to come to a decision.Here’s what we ordered:
A bottle of Vermentino (the name escapes me, oops!)
While the cocktail list was impressive, the wine list was even more so. With pages upon pages of vino organized by geographic region, you could spend hours studying the menu. Ultimately, I went with a bottle of aromatic and punchy Sardinian Vermentino, which worked with our starters and mains perfectly.
To kick things off, we started with an artfully plated dish of antipasto made for two that included grilled tiger shrimp and calamari, a layered caprese salad, thick slices of Asiago cheese and an assortment of grilled peppers, eggplant and zucchini—all delicious!
Polpo alla Puttanesca
While I thought we should probably stop at one appetizer, I’m glad we didn’t. My date swore by this dish and now so do I. This grilled octopus was perfectly cooked with a slight char on the tentacles. It was served with cherry tomatoes, black olives, anchovies and capers. If you’re an octopus lover, do yourself a favour and order this!
Bruschetta al Pomodoro
They actually ran out of this, but managed to scrounge up some tomatoes to dress our bread. This was okay, but nothing special.
La Gricia con Carciofi
For our starters, my date opted for a pasta dish from their Roman classics section. While I am spoiled when it comes to Italian food, I will confess that it was a pretty good attempt at pasta alla gricia. Made with artisanal rigatoni topped with crispy guanciale, black pepper, Pecorino Romano and the addition of artichokes, it had all the elements of tradition but with a twist.
Salsicce e Friarielli
Since four meaty grilled sausages served sautéed garlic rapini always sounds like paradise to me, ordering this was a no-brainer. One of my favourite dishes of the night, I did wonder if they made the sausages in-house. Upon investigation (yes, I did ask my waiter), they actually come from a butcher located somewhere near Kensington—the more you know!
Stuffed from our multi-course meal, we decided to skip dessert and instead finish on a more Italian note, ending with a digestivo. While I don’t fully understand the science of how certain alcohols can aid digestion, I didn’t protest. My date sipped a whiskey on the rocks, while I guzzled the best Negroni I’ve had since living in Italy!
My final thoughts?
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Sotto Sotto! While its status among the stars is telling, sometimes that doesn’t have much backing. However, I’m pleased to say that the restaurant did deliver an authentic Italian experience. With fare that focused on Central and Southern cuisine, the dishes were approachable and well-executed.
The price point is on the steeper side, but still very much affordable. However, I think it's well worth the cost. Plus, the ambiance is just unparalleled. Intimate while still exciting as you never know who you might brush shoulders with, the restaurant feels like an Italian escape–and that’s something I can definitely get behind.