Monday, July 30, 2012

Soleto: Solid Italian and Housemade Limoncello in Downtown LA

The South Park district in downtown Los Angeles is getting more and more exciting with two new restaurant openings. One of them is Soleto, an upscale Italian restaurant from the IDG Restaurant Group which took over the old Zucca space. Soleto is run by Executive Chef Sascha Lyon who is also in charge of the kitchen at Delphine.

I say it's upscale, but Soleto has a pretty great happy hour (M-F, 3-7pm), especially where the food is concerned. There were quite a few items that were all really cheap and good! The portion sizes are quite good as well. Here are some of the happy hour items we tried:

Shrimp Oreganato ($5)

This whole pot of shrimp for $5? You can come here for an early dinner during happy hour and have a feast!

This Sauteed Calamari with Anaheim chili and tomatoes is also only $5!
Much more interesting and better than the typical fried calamari.

I also recommend the Charred Cauliflower, Grana Padano, parsley ($3)
Grana Padano is a hard Italian cheese, similar in texture to parmesan cheese but milder. You'll see this cheese in many of Soleto's dishes. 

For drinks, there are sangria and "cello spritzer" (one of their housemade limoncellos/orange-cellos with soda) for $3.
OK, so that's happy hour. Now, on to dinner.

You won't really find duplicates from the happy hour menu here. The popular appetizers include Grilled Oyster Mushrooms, grana padano, white truffle lemon vinaigrette ($12)
These earthy mushrooms were made even better with the sprinkling of grana padano cheese. I can definitely eat these all day.

Meatballs Marinara al Forno ($8)

IMG_0310Other than the housemade limoncello and sangrias, Soleto also has a pretty interesting cocktail menu. The Gondola with cognac and their housemade kumquat/orange cello was too strong for me to start the night with while hungry. I enjoyed the Smoked Blossom made with Right Gin, lillet blanc, grilled orange, vanilla syrup ($12), and of course you can't go wrong with a Godfather.

We tried their various salads including the grilled vegetable salad topped with feta cheese, the Chop't Italian Salad mixed with beans, mortadella, salami, mozzarella and all kinds of other things that everyone loved. Another favorite was the Caesar Salad: romaine, parmesan crisp, grana padano ($14.50 for a large with chicken)

Their pizza crust had airy, crunchy edges. If you love eggs, be sure to get the Potato and Bacon Pie with fontina cheese, garlic cream, scallions, thyme ($14)
Because having breakfast for dinner is always a great idea.

The General Manager's favorite pizza was the Spicy Smoked Speck, Fresno and Anaheim peppers, onion ($15)
Be warned, I thought it was quite spicy (for a pizza)

The pasta selection is small but diverse, from pumpkin filled raviolis, to rigatoni with meat ragu, and Angel Hair alla Checca topped with herbed goat cheese ($14)

Usually I don't pay much attention to the secondi at Italian restaurants, being a pasta lover, but this is obviously a habit I need to change. The Balsamic Marinated Skirt Steak with truffle fries, garlic gremolata ($22) at Soleto was definitely worth getting.
I always love a good skirt steak as I think it's the most flavorful of the cuts, and when done right (as it was here), really tender as well. The sweetness of the balsamic marinade is perfect for it.

The Branzino Milanese with arugula, lemon, grana padano ($20) is a good choice if you want a lighter entree.

There once was a period where I would crave tiramisu every week, and Soleto's version reminded me why I love it so much. I was already stuffed but couldn't stop taking bites of it.

They gave us little bottles of their housemade limoncello (made with Everclear) to take home
Soleto is a solid dining choice in the area and I'm sure they will do quite well with LA Live and Staples Center nearby. The appetizers and entrees were more memorable for me than the pastas, and best of all was probably the great (and delicious) deal that their happy hour is! 

801 S Figueroa St
Los Angeles, CA 90017
(213) 622-3255
Soleto on Urbanspoon

Disclosure: this meal was hosted


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