For the last few weeks, Soleto Trattoria & Pizza Bar has graced Downtown Los Angeles with a new type of pizza joint. It’s a neighborhood spot with a classy atmosphere and talented chefs. Executive Chef Sascha Lyon of Delphine Eatery & Bar is responsible for the well-constructed menu that fuses Italian inspiration with local ingredients and tastes. Amir and I both love going Downtown now that the area has a new attitude, so it was unfortunate that he was not at this dinner. Next time, we’ll have to schedule a happy hour at Soleto, so that he can have a sample of the restaurant’s fare.
Soleto officially opened on July 17th. Yes, this post is a bit late, but better late than never. If you have yet to pay a visit to Soleto, now may be the time. The media preview included a sampling of a very wide selection from the menu, which presented a nice picture of what one can expect. There were favorites and, of course, there were a couple of dishes that one could perhaps pass over. Oh, and let’s not forget the cocktails. We may as well start there.
When in Rome is a fruity cocktail that could possibly venture into the ‘two sweet’ zone, but luckily it does not push the boundary. I love a sweet and spicy drink, and to be honest, this one could have used more punch in that arena. Another person ordered the same drink, and her’s tasted completely different from mine, but not in a good way. She was unhappy with it, but I finished mine with ease. This is definitely a drink I would order again, and I wouldn’t be afraid to say “More jalapeno please!”. As we sipped, we nibbled on a few dishes that are on the dinner menu, as well as the happy hour menu–Sauteed Calamari, Charred Cauliflower and Shrimp Oreganato. Each of these dishes was excellent with my favorite being the Shrimp Oreganato with huge chunks of olive oil-soaked croutons in the mix. The fonduta is a strong second due to the great charred flavor that pairs well with creamy fontina. I wish the Grilled Oyster Mushrooms were on the happy hour menu because they were also an interesting combination. We also sampled the Meatballs Marinara al Forno, but this one was a slight miss for me. The meatballs were all beef, and I admit that all beef meatballs do not grab my attention as quickly as those that include veal and pork. These were very meaty, but they needed more oomph.
I always enjoy a great salad. I believe that you can indeed be satisfied and fulfilled by greens and vegetables. We sampled three salads–the Caesar, the Grilled Vegetable Salad and the Chopt’ Italian. My two favorites were the latter two. They were both brimming with a mix of flavors and textures and kept each bite intriguing. The Chopt’ is very bold and commanding with salty bits of salami, mortadella, and pepperoni, along with fresh tomatoes, hearty garbanzo beans and tangy pepperoncini. Had the grilled vegetables in my next favorite salad been warm instead of room temperature, I probably would’ve have been even more in love. For my next cocktail round, I went with the Il Solo Messicano. I thought it would be refreshing with lime, grapefruit an agave mixed with tequila, campari and sambuca agrumi. I did not enjoy this cocktail as much as I hoped I would.
By the time we reached our next few courses, you can only guess that bellies were straining to fit all of the goodies. But somehow we soldiered on. You may have wondered when we were going to sample pizza from the pizza bar, and it was now that time. We tried three of the nine varieties–Spicy Smoked Speck, Potato & Bacon and the Skinny Pie. The speck pizza had a perfect level of spice, and it was covered with smokey peppers and soft onions. The potato and bacon pie reminded me of my most favorite potato pizza in Rome. The fried egg on top added a gooey top layer during the first bite. The Skinny Pie featured roasted tomatoes, ricotta and pesto, but it was not a stand out for me. I would have preferred to sample the Fig & Proscuitto pizza with mozzarella, arugula and gorgonzola. You can’t go wrong with figs.
Three pasta dishes made their way to our table as well. Almost everything at Soleto is made in house except for the pasta, which the Chef admitted once asked. Despite that fact, I was in love with the Rigatoni Ragu with sausage and escarole and the Angel Hair alla Checca with herbed goat cheese. Our third pasta dish, the Pumpkin Ravioli with beech mushrooms, hazelnuts and sage, was good, but not as noteworthy as the first two plates. Our last two main courses included Branzino Milanese with a simple arugula, lemon and Grana Padano salad and Balsamic Marinated Skirt Steak with truffle fries and garlic gremolata. If I had to choose between these two, I’d take the skirt steak and pair it with the arugula salad. They were both delicious. By this time, I was onto my final cocktail–the Milano Mule. It was, by far, my favorite of the night. Amaro, fresh ginger, lime and ginger beer are the mingling friends in the glass, and the result is an appropriately Italian twist on a traditional drink.
Oh, dessert. Dessert is always my favorite part of the meal, and we lucked out. The Strawberry Shortcake’s biscuit was so fluffy inside with a buttery crisp to the outer layer. That alone, even without the fruit and whipped cream, would’ve made me a happy camper. We also stuck our spoons into Tiramisu and the Salted Caramel and Chocolate Budino. The budino is first runner-up in this sweet race. It was creamy, silky and smooth with that spark of salt you love once it hits your tongue. We finished our meal with samples of the restaurant’s limoncello, grapefruit-cello and kumquat and blood orange-cello, including little bottles to take home for another day.
Soleto offers an excellent happy hour menu from 3:00 pm – 7:00 pm during the week. Food prices range from $3.00 – $8.00, which is a great deal. Certain cocktails, wine and cello spritzers featuring all three of their housemade flavors range from $3.00 – $6.00. For now, service hours Monday through Friday are 11:00 am – 11:00 pm and 5:00 pm – 11:00 pm on Saturday and Sunday. The restaurant is one of the newest additions to the Innovative Dining Group’s collection, which includes Sushi Roku, Delphine Eatery & Bar, Katana and Boa Steakhouse. It is a new spark to Downtown Los Angeles’ Italian scene and local hangouts.
Soleto Trattoria & Pizza Bar
801 South Figueroa Street
Los Angeles, CA 90017
Disclaimer: This tasting was a media preview event courtesy of Soletto Trattoria & Pizza Bar and Wagstaff Worldwide. All opinions are our own.