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Beloved Italian Restaurant Sotto Tragically Closes This Week

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It’s unclear exactly why the restaurant must close, but it’s not due to lack of customers

Sotto Interior
Matthew Kang is the Lead Editor of Eater LA. He has covered dining, restaurants, food culture, and nightlife in Los Angeles since 2008. He's the host of K-Town, a YouTube series covering Korean food in America, and has been featured in Netflix's Street Food show.

In a rather stunning last-minute announcement, Sotto, the beloved Italian restaurant in the southern stretch of Beverly Hills will close this week on Saturday, January 26. Founded by Steve Samson, Dina Samson, and Zach Pollack back in 2011, the mainstay and Essential 38 restaurant ended up as one of the city’s most highly regarded Italian eateries, serving excellent Neapolitan pizzas, pastas, and more. Its cocktail and wine menus were also considered top-notch, with expert bartender Julian Cox helming the drinks menu during its initial years.

Reached by phone, Steve and Dina Samson, who have been mainly in charge of operating Sotto for the last few years, stated that they were sad to close the restaurant but did not do so because of a lack of revenue. In fact, Sotto had been doing strong business the past couple years, and the place was filled many nights with carb-hungry regulars and cocktail mavens sitting at the front bar. The Samsons did state that while they feel it’s a tragic end to their first restaurant venture, they will focus their efforts on operating Rossoblu and Superfine pizza in Downtown LA, which they own together with a separate hospitality group. The Samsons declined to provide a further reason for Sotto’s closure.

In addition, the Samsons tell Eater that they don’t have plans to reopen Sotto in another location because of intellectual property issues, though they have other projects in the works, and would love to bring back the restaurant’s southern Italian cuisine to another place. When pressed on the reason why Sotto closed, the Samsons remarked that they were thankful for the opportunity to open it and credited the accolades it received to paving the way to Rossoblu and Superfine.

Margherita pizza at Sotto
Sotto [Official Photo]

Eater has reached out to Sprout, the other ownership partner at Sotto, for further comment but has not received a response as of the afternoon on Thursday, January 24.

Sotto first opened back in 2011 to warm reviews from dearly departed food critic Jonathan Gold, receiving other praise such as a two-star review from then LA Times critic S. Irene Virbila, Best New Restaurant from Los Angeles Magazine, and 99 Essentials pick from LA Weekly. Cox also received Eater LA’s Bartender of the Year for his work at Sotto in 2011. Before Sotto, the underground space operated as a roving pop-up for chefs called Test Kitchen.

The restaurant was also the first in what eventually became known as Sprout, the business organization founded by Bill Chait that went on to become involved in places like Bestia, Republique, The Rose Cafe, Broken Spanish, and Otium, among others. Chait has since moved on to different ventures, opening Tesse last year and getting close to opening the mammoth new Tartine project in Downtown LA.

Though founding partner and chef Zach Pollack helped Steve Samson open the restaurant, he eventually went on to open Alimento and Cosa Buona on the Eastside, though Pollock continued to retain an ownership stake in Sotto. He has not contributed to the daily operation of Sotto for the last few years.

Sotto’s closure leaves a huge hole in this part of Beverly Hills/West LA along Pico Boulevard, which lacks much in the way of quality dining. With the former Picca space above Sotto still empty after years of dormancy, one wonders what the leaseholders of the space underneath will do after Sotto’s departure.

Here’s the final statement from the Samsons on Sotto’s closure:

Dear Friends,

We are sad to inform you that, after almost eight years, Sotto will be closing its doors this weekend. Our last service will be Saturday, January 26th. We want to thank you for your continued support for our special little restaurant. We have made many lifelong friends along the way. We look forward to seeing you at Rossoblu and Superfine Pizza. We have other exciting projects in our future and can’t wait to share details as they materialize. That being said, Sotto will always be our first love. We will miss her dearly. Many thanks, Dina & Steve Samson.