East End Eats Upside Down and Alfresco

Sotto Sopra is a lovely place to dine, with a charming and outgoing staff and great pizza
Sotto Sopra, where Gordon’s used to be in Amagansett, is a lovely place for pizza, but ordering anything else is chancy. Sunny Khalsa

Sotto Sopra
231 Main Street
Amagansett
267-3695
Open for dinner Wednesday

to Sunday

   We arrived at Sotto Sopra (upside down) the other night in a roundabout way. Our intention was to review a more nightclubby establishment, but it turn­ed out to be closed on a Sunday night. We wandered aimlessly around the nightclubby parking lot, admiring all the flotsam and jetsam strewn about, which nightclubby patrons are wont to leave.
    Sure enough, a police cruiser arrived to ask what we were doing there. I engaged the exceptionally attractive policeman in a discussion of where-oh-where could we go to review. His partner pulled out his Streetwise East Hampton map. Smokin’ Wolf at the old Turtle Crossing? Love Arthur’s barbecue! How about Osteria Salina in Bridgehampton? We decided, with the help of East Hampton’s finest, to try Sotto Sopra in Amagansett, formerly Exile, formerly Mezzaluna, formerly good ol’ Gordon’s.
    Not too much has changed in the interior. The steel highway plates recycled into bartops remain. Sadly, the industrial lighting and artwork by such local luminaries as Dan Rizzie and John Alexander are gone. The walls are a pretty blond wood with sconces and rectangular light fixtures. The outdoor dining in back seems to have expanded.
    We decided to eat outside, and this is where the first few problems arose. The surface out back is more packed dirt than grass. So you must put your purse down in the dirt. If your sweater or jacket falls off your chair back, it is now in the dirt. The tables are small plastic ones with too-large chairs, making for awkward seating. And the tables were set with visibly filthy placemats. All four placemats were stained and goopy. We tried flipping them over. Dirty on the other side, too. We were so grossed out we simply removed them ourselves and laid them on a spare chair.
    Upon being seated you get a basket of focaccia and some thick squares of pizza. A bit messy, fairly tasty. We began our meal with the Robiola crostini, calamari fritti, and insalata bistecca.
    The Robiola crostini was a disappointment to my friend who ordered it. She was looking forward to the headlining Robiola, a fine, oozy treat of cheese. This version had very thin strips of cheese melted onto slivers of bread, served with grilled figs, spiced walnuts, and a salad with orange vinaigrette. Other than the skimpy portion of Robiola, we all agreed the figs were delicious and the salad refreshing.
    The calamari had an excellent, excellent crust but was overcooked, a bit rubberbandy. The fried pepperoncini mixed in with it was a great touch, salty and a bit spicy. The dipping sauces were okay, one a mayonnaise that had a few whole mustard seeds peeking through and one a thin, lightly spiced tomato sauce.
    The insalata bistecca was basically an iceberg wedge salad with tiny diced tomato bits, even tinier bits of pancetta bacon, and not quite enough blue cheese dressing.
    At this point we spied our friend Arthur, who was clued in to our mission. Throughout our meal he would deliver bits of his group’s food for us to try — Caesar salad, for instance. It was lacking in all the things that make a Caesar good: lemon, garlic, anchovy, Parmesan.
    For entrees we tried the pesto chicken pizza, linguine mollusco, and branzino al forno, along with some sides of sautéed mushrooms and “local” corn. The quotes because I find it hard to believe we already have local corn.
    The pizzas at Sotto Sopra are probably the best way to go when dining there. They are very good; the crust is flavorful and chewy, nicely charred in spots by the wood-burning pizza oven. The pesto pizza was great except for the chicken slivers on top, which had no seasoning.
    The linguine mollusco was good and full of sweet cockles. The branzino was also good, served with fingerling potatoes and sautéed spinach. I recommend the sautéed mushrooms, a mixture of cremini, oyster, and portobellos. The “local” corn was corn off the cob, cooked a little too long. Arthur appeared at our table and bestowed upon us a piece of his piccante pizza topped with pepperoni, spicy sausage, and ricotta. We all agreed it was delicious.
    Service on the night of our visit was terrific. They were very busy but the waiters and busboys (all handsome Irish lads) couldn’t have been more efficient or helpful. The manager, an attractive woman clad all in summery white, was efficient, friendly, and quite witty.
    Prices at Sotto Sopra are a bit steep for the quality of the food. Starters cost $11 to $18, pizza and pastas cost $18 to $26, fish and meat cost $28 to $49, sides $10 and $11, and desserts $9.
    Although we saw slices of what appeared to be cheesecake glide by us, we were informed that the only desserts available that night were blood orange sorbet and a house-made chocolate mint gelato. Both were quite fine. The blood orange sorbet was served with a shot glass of lemoncello to be poured over it, a wonderful, boozy, and refreshing concept. The chocolate mint gelato was creamy and rich.
    Sotto Sopra is a lovely place to dine, with a charming and outgoing staff and great pizza. The rest of the food needs tweaking.