Newport restaurant, Sotto Sopra, means “upside down” in Italian. Some may guess that implies they’re turning Italian cuisine on its head but that’s not the case at all, quite the opposite. The cuisine tweaks here are scarce and subtle.
The name refers to the building. The power and plumbing had to be 1.5 metres high or above, so, the kitchen and bar are upstairs and the seating is downstairs. Ormeggio and Sotto Sopra chef Alessandro Pavoni are serving old-school trattoria fare.
At the centre of the kitchen and the menu is an imported Italian wood-fired oven. Unusually, this one isn’t for pizza. Instead there’s chicken cacciatore baked in a cast-iron pan, an enormous 1.2 kilo Wagyu Fiorentina steak with roast potatoes, and an Italian seafood chowder done in a terracotta pot, covered in puff pastry. When you break the pie, the pastry goes inside the chowder.
In typical trattoria fashion, Pavoni and his team makes everything in house, including a chickpea bread they stuff with salted cod as well as a quartet of fresh pastas, including a ravioli filled with ox tail and topped with pine nuts, sultanas, butter and sage. As you’d expect from the same team that runs Ormeggio, there are a few innovations. The ravioli is dusted in cocoa powder; sardine spaghetti is intensified with black garlic; and dessert serves up a wood-fired mango tart with lime gelato.
The space is the biggest departure from the traditional casual eateries of Italy, with a modern and industrial feel with exposed pipes from kitchen above visible to diners. The wines on the other hand are purely Italian and due to a Coravin (a tool that seals opened wine bottles) they are mostly available by the glass.