Several years ago Rose Evangelista, a real estate agent with Douglas Elliman in East Hampton, approached Joseph Smith and Rick Passarelli, owners of the Bobby Van’s Steakhouse chain, touting a small restaurant space in the village of Amagansett. Smith, who had secretly always yearned to open an Italian eatery, agreed to partner with the duo and became a managing partner in their lively new eatery, Sotto Sopra.
Because of her Italian name, you might be forgiven for assuming Evangelista had prior Italian restaurant experience. You would be wrong. In fact, she was a highly successful toy manufacturer before moving to the South Fork. Bubbly and charismatic, she has the ideal personality for manning the front of the house at this popular local eatery specializing in Northern Italian and, of course, steakhouse fare.
Lord knows the East End needed an attractive, bustling boite offering outstanding Italian cuisine at affordable-ish prices. (We love that wines by the glass are only around $12.) Our only quibble is that we wish it were located farther west, so as to be more accessible to all Hamptonites rather than the lucky few such as Alec and Hilaria Baldwin who live a couple of farm fields away and, have stopped by to enjoy the restaurant’s freshest veggies such as grilled asparagus, rosemary brussel sprouts, mustard mashed potatoes, and pan roasted corn “fresh off the cob.”
Despite being in a gluten-free phase, we weren’t able to resist the thick slabs of fragrant, salt-crusted focaccia, which was house-baked along with a paper-thin, crackly flat bread. It’s worth a trip to Amagansett just to sample the Robiola Crostini. Robiola is a soft-ripened cheese made with cow’s, goat’s and sheep’s milk, for which the luscious grilled figs, savory prosciutto and greens with a tangy orange vinaigrette provided a sexy counter-balance.
Our favorite of the wood-oven pizzas was the Funghi, slathered with sautéed mushrooms, spinach, and sweet and creamy robiola, this time scented with the earthiness of truffle oil. The high-temp (600 degrees) baked crust was blackened just so. We were relieved to hear that the flour used in the crust was gluten-free, the better for arriving at the dough’s correct body and stretchiness.
The standout pasta was undoubtedly the Linguini Mollusco, otherwise known as “spaghetti with clam sauce.” Under the knowing hand of chef Josh Savi, the pasta (No. 7 linguini) was permeated with a powerful concentrate of ocean flavor, achieved by roasting the clamshells.
Our double thick-cut Veal Porterhouse was worthy of Fred Flintstone in size, with a heavenly taste. Let’s put it this way: we don’t usually feast on “big meat,” but this tender and juicy, on-the-bone specimen was as good as it gets. As well it should be, considering it is cooked to perfection in a “Bobby Van’s-style char-broiler.”
We’re not alone in favoring this charming eatery with its blond pine paneling, whizzing overhead fans, and al fresco seating on the back terrace. The restaurant is continually packed with locals, summer visitors, and celebrities, the likes of the aforementioned Baldwin clan, who are eating for three these days, Cameron Diaz, John Slattery, Blythe Danner, designers Michael Kors and David Yurman, Bobby Flay and Naomi Watts who savored the Rigatoni Toscana.
Take heed and make sure you procure your reservation in advance; weekends book up fast. Sotto Sopra is open seven days a week for dinner, and Saturday and Sunday for brunch.
231 Main Street
By Debra Scott
Photos by Lauren Clarke-Bennett