Located in the subterranean space formerly inhabited by La Normandie, diners descend into a haunting grotto of exposed beams and candlelit tables. In the hands of lesser talent, such a setting might feel dank and depressing. But Sotto’s interior design is inspired and Chef Danny Combs’s menu is dynamic, with brightly flavored antipasti and family-style entrees that encourage conviviality. Knowledgeable servers extol the virtues of the homemade pasta—and their enthusiasm is warranted. The short rib cappellacci and the pillowy cavatelli with sausage are definite winners, so much so that it’s tough to determine which carries the dish—the pasta or its carefully prepared accompaniments. Don’t miss the action: Sotto’s pasta prep area is in full view near the back of the dining area.
When it comes to dessert, the ricotta doughnuts are a must. The impossibly light, plum-sized pastries are served with three sauces: caramel, pistachio, and chocolate (pro tip: double dip). Be warned, they share easily but spoon sparring with dining companions may break out over that last bite.
Moral of the story: Don’t be afraid of the dark. The only thing hiding in this basement is Boca-quality Italian home cooking at more prudent prices.
118 E. Sixth St., downtown, (513) 977-6886, sottocincinnati.com
Originally published in the March 2014 issue.