Daily Slice: Margherita at Sotto, Los Angeles
Daily Slice gives a quick snapshot each weekday of a different slice or pie that the folks at the Serious Eats empire have enjoyed lately.
Sotto is the newest venture from Steve Samson and Zach Pollack, formerly of Pizza Ortica in Costa Mesa. Open since the end of March, it's remarkable that such a young oven reliably produces impeccably cooked pizzas.
Wood-burning ovens are cropping up all over Southern California, but Los Angeles' Sotto has taken it to the next level. Every element of their 15,000 pound oven is imported from Naples: the bricks, the cement, the Vesuvian sand, the tools and even the builder — that's right, Stefano Ferrara hand-built the oven! It's one of only a handful in the entire United States — even Manhattan only has one at Donatella.
The classic Margherita ($13) showcases all of Sotto's craftsmanship. The dough imparts little flavor, but the texture is superb. Encased in a thin shell, crisp from the oak and beech wood fire, its chewy dough is laced with a lovely hole structure. The Margherita glistens with crushed tomato sauce, striking a precise balance of tangy and sweet. Spots of salty mozzarella dot the surface, complementing freckles of blistered char on the crust. To finish it off, humongous basil leaves are loosely arranged on top, ensuring every bite is aromatic.