The Wonders of Exclusion

Explore Southern Italy at Sotto

Paved with bright yellow tiles, an oak fire showing through its open mouth, the Neapolitan pizza oven at the newly opened Sotto is difficult to ignore.

And considering the strong pizza résumés of chef-owners Zach Pollack and Steve Samson, who opened Pizzeria Ortica, diners might mistake this for a pizza spot. Instead, the food being served in the revamped Test Kitchen space goes beyond a Naples-style pie: Sotto is taking inspiration from all of Southern Italy.

This means no butter, no Parmigiano-Reggiano, no prosciutto di Parma. But such absences are a glorious thing. The chewy house-made bread comes with green-tinged olive oil or whipped lard; aged sheep's-milk cheeses are used for grating; and you'll forget Parma's favorite ham after sampling the various pig parts Pollack is curing in-house.

Grilled pork meatballs ($10) reflect Southern Italy's warmer climate with their lemon-leaf wrappers. Well-charred, with a bright, meaty flavor, they're a welcome respite from the tomato-braised standard (click here to download the recipe).

Many of Sotto's pastas are dimpled and creviced, their expanded surface area adept at clinging to sauces. We enjoyed the curling open tubes of casarecce ($15) sauced with an egg-enriched lamb ragù.

Oh, and Sotto makes a fine pizza, too.

Sotto, 9575 W. Pico Blvd., West L.A.; 310-277-0210 or sottorestaurant.com