Sottosuolo Review - A Pleasing Addition to a Busy Block

It’s so nice when somebody get its right. That was my first thought as I entered this casually intimate restaurant, and the idea was immediately reinforced as I studied its limited, but well-conceived menu.

 

 

Sottosuolo Exterior

Sottosuolo Enoteca  on  East 27th Street in New York opened in June, and is an offshoot  of  I Trulli to which it is physically linked. From the simple bare tables at Sottosuolo, diners can look through a huge glass wall to see patrons of the older restaurant dining in white tablecloth splendor at an establishment which will celebrate its 25th anniversary two years from now. That particular block was more like a desert when I Trulli first opened  and now is lined with other casual restaurants appealing to the same crowd.

 

 

Sottosuolo Kitchen

 

When I began, many years ago, wending my way through the complications of Italian restaurants, I recognized a certain declension. The top dining houses were called ristorantes. But then there were osterias, trattorias and enotecas. Osterias were basically rustic, and those were the places I frequented. Trattorias were more focused on local products, and both were more informal than ristorantes. Enotecas, technically, are stores that sell wine and sometimes have a few tables where guests can eat small plates, primarily appetizers. But those lines have been totally blurred these days and operators use those designations interchangeably.  

 

 

Nicola Marzovilla, Owner

I Trulli, though hardly posh, has always been an upper tier restaurant. Founder Nicola Marzovilla, whose mother has been in the kitchen rolling out hand-made pasta for nearly a quarter-century, decided it was time to follow up with a more rustic eatery focused on dishes from its wood-fired oven. In the space he calls an enoteca.

 

Dora Marzovilla, Chief Pasta Maker

The wood-fired oven comes into play almost immediately as the waiter recommends one of the seven crusty, char-bottomed pizzas ranging from the basic Marguerita ($14) featuring house made mozzarella, to the over the top Carbonara, at $18,  rich with  pepper-flavored, sweet, lush guanciale and topped by a duck egg. Guanciale comes from the fattest part of a hog jowl and is often used in place of pancetta. Other pizzas feature   meatballs, homemade sausage, and rabbit ragu, and we found our one Carbonarra pizza to be almost a meal for two.

 

 

 

Sottosuolo Dish

The full menu is set out on a chart that make ordering easy, i.e. one from column A, say rigatoni, and one from column C, fish of the day, in this case a fresh swordfish steak, accompanied by sautéed spinach and fingerling potatoes, which vanished quickly at our table.  Our other main course, actually two small plates, was a baked eggplant and an onion tart. The eggplant, aka melanzana, was soft, creamy, and pleasing. The onion tart, however, came sans crust, and was more like a pancake, oily, with a ragged soft texture, and almost devoid of onion flavor.   

 

  

Cheesecake

 

But, returning to our opening thought, Marzovilla really has the crowd-pleasing formula down right. It’s a pleasing format, larded with small offerings of favorites, from mini calzoni to spicy salami and just enough greens to please health-minded patrons.

 

Sottosuolo Main Dining Room

 

It’s a setting that invites lingering, particularly from spring through late fall when the doors are open to table service on the street. There’s a very homelike feeling about the place, its open kitchen, the bakers at the oven, the room set off by clear ceiling lighting that makes reading the menu a pleasure, and dining a worthwhile experience.                                                                                                                                                                           

Photos: Courtesy of SOTTOSUOLO

Sottosuolo website

122 East 27th Street

Between Park & Lexington

[email protected]

(646) 610-9695

Monday-Saturday Noon-11pm

Sunday Noon-10pm

 

Happy Hour 

4pm-7pm Daily

 

 

 

 

 

 

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