Today I was invited down to the newest pizza and Italian joint to call Commercial Drive home: “Sopra Sotto”. I walked up to the location thinking what it could bring to a strip fondly referred to as “Little Italy”. What could they offer customers that the other italian restaurants haven’t? What could set them apart from the so many that offer authentic Italian pizza and pasta?
I got my answer right at the threshold. I instantly fell in love with the place, making it reason enough to visit. The layout is so modern and chic, it makes you forget the cafe that was once here before. Every design element flowed: hexagonal tiles meet wood grain by the bar. A modern bar that looks like it belongs in an IKEA catalogue. And most memorable, the wall paper of colourful feathered birds against charcoal grey.
The bird wallpaper was so wonderful that I was compelled to take a photo in front of it, and even ordered a drink whose colour would compliment it. The “Kid Gavilan” is prepared with white rum, green apple liquor, lime, mint, and vanilla syrup. It was fantastic, a great any time of day, anywhere sort of drink. Just a great refresher to sip on.
When it came time to ordering food, we mostly took our server’s suggestion trying an appetizer, a pasta dish, and a pizza. This way we got a good look at how “Sopra” was “bringing fresh, local and approachable Italian fare to the neighbourhood”. Their cuisine focuses on inspiration from Northern Italy, “Nonna’s cooking, and the slow food movement”.
And a great way to start is through their “antipasto misto” for two, an easy way to check out a few of their appetizers, all on one board. This is the chef’s selection of meat, cheese, and other appetizers served with fresh in-house made focaccia bread. It was a great platter to nibble on with capicola, spicy fennel salami, carponata (eggplant cooked in a tomato sauce with capers, olives, onions, and red peppers), fresh Parmesan cheese over pears with balsamic vinegar, artichokes, sweet peppers stuffed with cheese, and anchovies with salsa verde. All together a nice variety of textures covering flavours from salty to sweet. Fun to eat with your hands, taking nibbles, and mixing spicy with tangy elements. The only item I didn’t like was the overwhelming saltines of the fish in stuffed pepper. It caused my mouth to pucker and over powered everything else.
The bread was also not unlike the dough of their pizzas. Therefore we got plenty of it when we followed this appetizer up with pizza. It was just seasoned differently, where they could have made the focaccia bread above fluffier, instead of light and crisp like their pizza crust. Although, I can see this just being extra work for the kitchen. And my suggestion is only on the assumption that people ordering this platter will get pizza as their main. And this is based on the restaurant featuring their pizza oven, visible from the dining room.
After having an appetizer to share, I strongly suggest doing the same for your entrées.
Our Mac and cheese came to the table still sizzling in its skillet. It was amazing, just too rich to have on its own. “Maccheroni al Forno”, baked macaroni in a creamy mushroom and cabbage sauce, with grana and alps cheese, and fried up speck at an additional cost. The cabbage wasn’t intrusive, each noodle was coated with a gummy chew, the mushroom added texture, and the fried crispy speck some saltiness and much needed crunch. I wish I could reach for a bowl of this every time I was craving some munches or needed a comforting meal. Writing about this now, I want to return for a bowl to-go.
The pizza on the other hand was bland by comparison. Arugula, mozzarella, shaved grana cheese, cherry tomatoes, and prosciutto. It was just crispy dough baked up from their wood fire pizza, topped with raw ingredients. Like the flat bread in our appetizer, you piece it together: cheese and meat with bread. In fact the same cured meat, salted cheese, and herb bread from our appetizer make an appearance here too. Each ingredient individually great, but all together as a pizza, it felt incomplete. Luckily our server was so in-tuned to our needs that she came with a bottle of chilli oil. This was helpful, a heavy drizzle added some spice and developed some depth to our flat bread pizza. Sadly we just made the wrong pizza choice. Instead we could have, and should have gone with the one featuring porchetta, home made sausages, or the calzone stuffed with meat and cheeses.
For dessert we were treated with a ricotta and candied orange cake that has yet to make an appearance on their menu. It had a custard-like sponge, that was creamy. It started light and airy, but ended with a back of your throat sweetness. The orange flower essence was very prominent, the prefect treat to pair with a warm tea.
Overall a great visit and you know everything is spot on, when all you have left is to nitpick. With such a sophisticated and tidy spot, along with its higher price point you expect perfection. Like crisp menus and straight flatware (our menu was already coloured on a tattered and our knives bent). Especially more so considering they are but a 4-5 month old restaurant. Everything else was so polished and perfect that these stood out in contrast.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
A great spot for a lunch or dinner on The Drive. Another Italian and pizza place with a decor that has you coming for their pie and staying for a drink. Though sadly their cocktail program can’t keep up. Their drink menu only has 6 cocktail options, and one is a mocktail (sans alcohol). Hopefully this is something that they look into as they have quite the bar to be posted up at. “Sopra” definitely offers some refinement in an eclectic neighbourhood. Don’t deny your cravings.
1550 Commercial Drive, Vancouver BC, V5L 2Y7