Grandma’s Italian Cooking

This article first appeared in The Independent Newspaper. Read more about #EverythingEastEnd here


Sotto Sopra in Amagansett proves that fine dining doesn’t need to be complicated, with a Northern Italian menu that gets back to the basics.

I walked through the open design interior of cedar-paneled walls guiding me towards the back. Light shone through the floor-to-ceiling windows that were opened due to the beautiful weather. The glass separated the inside space from the hidden treasure of an outdoor patio, where I was seated casually under an umbrella, as though I were about to dine with family.

As with any good Italian meal, I started off with fresh bread from its wood-burning oven. It was accompanied by a surprise red, sun-dried tomato garlic sauce, a twist on the traditional butter or oil dip. My guest, David, who happens to be a local chef and, as such, has turned into my go-to companion on dining reviews, repeatedly reached into the bread basket. “I’m going to accidentally fill myself up on this bread and red sauce,” he said. “I can’t get enough!”

During the summer months, my go-to cocktail is a Moscow Mule, which Sopra labels a Friggin Mule, with black fig vodka. It paired perfectly with the appetizers. Baked Clams Oregonata served with undercooked breadcrumbs, at least for my taste, were fixed by a unique butter sauce that was light, creamy and unlike anything I’ve tasted. The Tuna Tartare with an avocado mousse and sesame-crusted wonton didn’t disappoint, with a cilantro, chili oil.

For my main dish, an Italian classic and one I’d been craving for the better part of a year, I chose Rigatoni Bolognese with beef, pork, and veal. All too often, restaurants try to add a culinary twist on this traditional meal and lose sight of the original flavor. With a light layer of parmesan cheese, Sotto Spora instantaneously brought me back to childhood memories with my Italian side of the family. David observed as I indulged in each forkful like a kid at Sunday dinner. “This meal is like home,” I said, eagerly pushing him to try.

Our other main course of Butchers Tenderloin came out, a grilled skirt steak, arugula, and balsamic vinaigrette. The steak was cooked exactly as we ordered, medium rare. Needless to say, there were no leftovers from this meal. The desserts, of which we opted for a cheesecake, aren’t made in-house and therefore don’t compare to the rest of the meal. However, can you really go wrong with something sweet at the end of an Italian meal?

In addition to crispy Italian style pizza, fresh sushi, a prix fixe menu daily from 5 to 6:30 PM and Happy Hour from 5 to 7 PM offering half-priced drinks and food menu at the bar, Sotto Sopra now has new Family Style Suppers. The menu, offered Sunday through Thursday starting at 5 PM, is owner, Joseph Smith, and managing partner, Rose Evangelista’s way to cater to the local community. Chef Angelo, who works at Bobby Vans in New York City in winter, wows guests with a family style menu with dishes such as Eggplant Tomato Mozzarella Stacks, Kale Quinoa Salad, Mussels, Nurrata and prosciutto crostini, Orecchiette, Penne Caprese, Chicken Scarpariello, and Pan Roased Black Sea Bass.

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