Sotto needed Wedding as much as Wedding needed Sotto. Where else but the forever-gentrifying, never-gentrified Bezirk could a bright-eyed young Finnish-Italian couple with no restaurant experience – and a newborn baby, to boot – afford to open the vegetarian pizzeria of their dreams? On the other hand, Wedding really needed Sotto. So much so that mere weeks after opening, Bettina Hajanti and Mattia Mancini’s cosy blue-tiled storefront is packed nearly nightly with locals grateful to have somewhere to eat. It’s a perfect case of right-place, right-time… and right food: Sotto’s 100 percent meatless fare is upmarket enough for date night, yet affordable enough not to reserve for special occasions.
You’ll want pizza, of course, made by Mancini (he’s the Italian, if you hadn’t guessed, from the Le Marche region). There are nearly as many vegan choices as vegetarian, with toppings ranging from the standard margherita and marinara to pumpkin-gorgonzola or spinach with almond cream and herb pesto (€6-9.50). Either way, the dough is the star player, cold-fermented for up to three days and rolled out to an ideal crispy-chewy thickness. You could eat a basket of it on its own – and you probably will, since it’s served at the start of your meal instead of bread.
Milanese chef Elena D’Alto takes care of the rest of the menu, which verges on experimental without going overboard. Don’t get put off by “celery carpaccio”: the crisp thin-sliced marinated celeriac, served atop a “rainbow” of flavoured vegan mayo, is a perfect palate primer before diving into a plate of homemade scialatelli pasta. In the wintery version we got, the toothy strands were infused with coffee and topped with Jerusalem artichoke and hazelnuts. Too gut-busting? You can opt for a more refreshing “green” variant with red cabbage pesto, or try a Tuscan chickpea-flour cake (€7) with persimmon, mint and either pecorino cheese or almond cream. Any culinary missteps (we weren’t thrilled about the crumbled tempeh hiding under that carpaccio, for one) are easily made up for by the friendly, familial atmosphere – literally; don’t be surprised if you see the aforementioned baby, now a toddler, waddling around the place like it’s his second living room. A generous Schluck of reasonably priced Italian wine (€3.50-6 for 20cl) will endear you to Sotto even further. It’s no wonder some Mitte folks are beginning to creep in amongst the local crowd: the good food and warm vibes are more than worth a Wedding field trip. Go now, before the Neuköllners catch on.