One of the perks of this “job” is that I often get invited to new restaurants for a peek into their offerings. I can’t and don’t always go. I’m not really a restaurant blogger. Partly because I’m constantly deconstructing whatever is served to me. Dissecting it on the plate and trying to get to the bottom of how it was made. I’m an embarrassment to my fellow diners and a whole lot of publicists have removed me from their lists because of this appalling habit.
But I can’t help it. I’m a cook first. I just am.
So when a Soleto Trattoria & Pizza Bar invite pinged my inbox I almost didn’t open it. But I’d heard that Chef Sacha Lyon was heading up the kitchen. I’ve had such good experiences with his food at Delphine Eatery & Bar in Hollywood. Day or night it’s like a sunny day along the Cote d’Azure. It made me wonder what he could do for a pizza joint.
Well, I found out Soleto Trattoria & Pizza Bar is much more than a pizza joint. It’s more like a back street trattoria in a hip Napoli neighborhood. It has an “old-school” sense of drama with an “industrial-chic” touch.
I enjoyed the meal and the company very much. We tasted practically the entire menu. The chef even came out to say hello. I think he saw me looking under the hood of each dish that came my way. He probably figured I was the type who had a few questions. And I did. Sure he’s a chef and I’m well, you know… not. But he took my questions. Better yet he answered my questions. One of those questions was “do you have a recipe from the menu that a home cook could master?” He said yes and offered to share this Sautéed Calamari with Anaheim Chilies and Marinated Tomatoes with me. We talked briefly about the process and the ingredients. I tried to get as much info out of him as I could because, truth be told, I’m often promised recipes from chefs but they don’t always materialize in my in box.
But he was certainly gracious. That easy attitude extends into the restaurant itself. Soleto Trattoria & Pizza Bar is a very approachable restaurant. Starting with the large glass doors that open onto S. Figueroa, they seem to suck you right in. Once there, you are there. It feels like a destination. Super high ceilings and wide open 360 degree views from one corner of the restaurant almost to the other. Sure it’s loud. But you’re smack dab in the middle of downtown Los Angeles’ financial district. You expect some bustle. Besides, we all know how hot the downtown dining scene is these days. Which can be a bit of a burden, especially at lunch, when you just don’t have time to wait for a table. But Soleta has 3,400 square feet of seating with and additional 1,100-square-foot outdoor patio space. It has a hip vibe. But it’s not intimidating. Honest materials, like colorful tile work, exposed beams and reclaimed wood keep it good-natured both day and night.
The menu feels familiar and friendly too. Pizzas, antipasti, salads, pasta and a heck of a bacon and cheddar burger. Dinner entrees include simple preparations of meat, chicken and fish. Including a really good white sea bass “branzino” Milanese with arugula, lemon and grana padano. Even the choice of grana padano over the expected Parmigiano-Reggiano tells you something about the unpretentious vibe that keeps its eye on quality.
As for that Sautéed Calamari with Anaheim Chilies and Marinated Tomatoes well I don’t have to say a word about that. Because as you can see, that friendly chef came through for me. So I have the recipe to share. You can taste it it for yourself. GREG
Sautéed Calamari with Anaheim Chilies and Marinated Tomatoes serves 4 CLICK here for a printable Sautéed Calamari recipe
- 1 lb calamari cleaned and cut into rings. tentacles included if desired. make sure calamari is well drained and relatively dry
- 2 oz olive oil
- 2 T minced garlic
- 1 pn kosher salt
- 1 c roasted, peeled and seeded Anaheim chilies cut into strips
- 1 c roughly chopped fresh tomatoes, marinated at least 1 hour in herbs & olive oil then drained
- 4 T chopped Italian parsley
- 1 t crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 lemon, juice only
Set a large sauté pan over high heat. Add olive oil (if you want to use the oil you marinated the tomatoes in, all the better) and heat until shimmering. Add the squid and cook over high heat, tossing, until starting to turn opaque, about 1 minute. When the calamari is starting to color add garlic and salt. Continue cooking over high heat until garlic is golden brown. Then add chilies, tomatoes, parsley and red pepper, tossing to combine. Remove from heat and finish with lemon juice. Serve hot.
Soleto Trattoria & Pizza Bar
801 S. Figueroa St.
Los Angeles, CA 90017