Sotto

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Two-inch-wide hunks of rust-colored bread are placed on the table, each blessed with a thick coating of pure white lardo. This is serious Italian cooking, all right. Steve Samson and Zach Pollack left Costa Mesa’s Pizzeria Ortica to turn the former home of Test Kitchen into a rustic den of Italian food and wood fire. Start with an Italian-inspired aperitif made with herby libations like Campari and Averna, or you could sip the Charlie Sheen-inspired Tiger’s Blood. Then onto the grilled pork meatballs, set off by a punch of citrus and pecorino. Pastas are handmade and mostly unique to L.A., like the tubes of casarecce with braised lamb ragù and egg yolk or the nutty capunti—thick brown curls tossed in wilted rapini greens and a tomato-free bolognese sauce called ragù bianco. The Neapolitan pizzas are the best sort of simple: edges charred black and chewy, with toppings like house-cured pork cheek, fennel pollen, and wild mushrooms used with restraint. For dessert try a rare top-notch L.A. cannelloni, the ends dipped in pistachios and the filling infused with marmalade. Wines are Italian, but they’re far from predictable and delightfully affordable. // 9575 W. Pico Blvd., West L.A. (310-277-0210 or sottorestaurant.com). D Tue.-Sun. Full bar. Italian  $$

Photograph courtesy Ryan Tanaka