CINCINNATI - Restaurateur David Falk has been fantasizing about opening an authentic Italian restaurant since his first trip to the country.
Now, after having visited Italy nearly 25 times, the Cincinnati native is putting his inspiration to work at his newest downtown dining venture, Sotto .
"Sotto, to me, is something I've been dreaming about since that first trip to Italy," Falk said. "As my passion and my skill level of cooking authentic Italian food started to grow, I kept seeing increasingly fewer and fewer opportunities to dine as you do in Italy."
Falk hungered the fill the void, which led to Sotto. The restaurant, located at 116 East Sixth St., is part of Cincinnati Center City Development Corp (3CDC)'s $15 million investment on Sixth Street. Four Entertainment Group's nearby Igby's is part of the development as well.
"It's already a hopping area, and the more interest we have in our center city, the better it is for the region as a whole," said 3CDC's Vice President of Communications Anastasia Mileham.
Sotto is the latest addition to Falk's collection of restaurants he owns, operates and works as chef. Falk, an Italian, owns Boca — which is slated to open above Sotto in mid-May after its move from Oakley — as well as Nada, located just a few feet away at 600 Walnut St. Sotto and Boca are filling the former spaces of La Normandie and the Maisonette, respectively.
The reputation for the restaurants' space precedes it as the Maisonette enjoyed favorable reviews for more than 40 years before it closed in 2005. Falk said it's humbling to open two restaurants in such a well-known building. The space brings familiarity, which Mileham and 3CDC said they hope brings patrons back.
"The space has a special place in people's hearts and we want to continue to create a special place for people to remember," Mileham said.
The restaurant, which has been five years in the making, opened on April 1 and offers what Falk describes as an "authentic Tuscan experience" from the food to the design of the restaurant. At the core of the restaurant is "an exceptional product at such a low price," Falk said. Items like bruschetta between $3 and $14, a $17 porkloin meal and a $14 linguine carbonara meal will appeal to customers' stomachs and their wallets. For the full menu, go to http://sottocincinnati.com/menus/.
Even though Sotto has been open for less than a month, Falk said he is pleased with business, however, he said the next several months of will indicate if the restaurant will sink or swim.
"When the new restaurant opens up, it's like the hot new girl that you know you can't wait to date, and then you date them and you're like ‘do I want to marry this girl?'" Falk said. "And so my job is to get our markets to marry our concepts."
Sotto's polenta with fried egg, brown
butter, lomo and parmigiano.
What will help the restaurant stay afloat? Falk said his skilled team of cooks, designers and managers have not only been crucial in Sotto's first months, but will also be critical in the restaurant's success.
"When I was younger I cared the most about the guests, but now it's not the case at all. I care far more about my staff and getting them inspired and fired up for what we're doing. I mean, it's exciting," he said.
If you have an amazing team, then I'm confident two years from now I'll say we're successful, but if we lose our team or lose ourselves in the process, that's when it gets dangerous," Falk added.
Reservations at Sotto are recommended, but are not required. Reservations can be made by calling (513) 977-6886 or through their website at http://sottocincinnati.com/reservations/ .
Sotto is open Sunday through Thursday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and from Friday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m.
Sotto's grilled salmon with anchovy white wine sauce.
Bruschetta: tuna w/ egg, chili oil & porchetta w/ mustard, pickeled shallot.