A wild and crazy night at the wonderful Sotto in Los Angeles

mai pham

Above, from left: Paolo Cantele, Forbes travel writer Mai Pham (my super good friend from Houston who was in town celebrating her birthday with friends), and Jeremy Parzen (me) at the popular southern Italian restaurant Sotto in Los Angeles, where Cantele’s wines have been on the list and by the glass since the restaurant opened nearly three years ago.

It was a wild and crazy night at Sotto last Friday, November 1.

After arriving at LAX five hours late (a delay sadly due to the shooting there), Paolo rushed over to the restaurant from the airport to lead his guided tasting with guests.

I headed rental car agency and after waiting for nearly an hour and a half, I boogied over to the restaurant as quick as I could, arriving roughly halfway through.

Despite the hassle of our delayed flight (and missing our afternoon in Los Angeles where we had a number of meetings planned for Paolo), I was thrilled to present him and the wines: ever since we opened the restaurant — where I co-author the wine list — nearly three years ago, Paolo’s family’s wines have been featured on the list.

So it was a great experience for me to get to present my good friend and the wines I love so much to a sold-out crowd on the patio.

paolo cantele sotto los angeles

I’d like to thank all the guests, who were so patient with our late arrival. After waiting on the ground in Austin for more than six hours, it was such a pleasure for us to be received by such a great crowd.

And I’d also like to thank my partner Rory, with whom I co-author the list, and general manager Caitlin for keeping everything together even though we were running so late.

As crazy and hectic as everything was that night, we had a great evening and a great dinner at the restaurant.

No matter what the logistics, it all comes down to great food, great wines, and genuine hospitality. And Sotto has all three… in spades… I’m so proud to be part of the team there.

Critical theory meets downhome cooking at iSensi, Cantele’s new cooking school

wine tasting puglia

When Paolo Cantele first started sending me passages to translate for a new website he was working on, I was nonplussed.

What could Murakami Haruki, Pina Bausch, Peter Greenaway, and Vivian Maier have to do with Cantele and Pugliese wine?

The texts — authored by a Pugliese professor of critical theory and inspired by some of the greatest artists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries — were to appear on the website for Cantele’s new cooking and wine tasting school and restaurant, iSensi.

At every turn of our friendship and working relationship, Paolo has thrilled me with his ability to fuse his intellectual curiosity with his role as his family’s marketing director.

And I shouldn’t be surprised that he surprised me again.

cooking school puglia

I haven’t had a chance to visit iSensi yet but from what I see and read online, it’s the latest expression of Paolo’s mission to combine his family’s high sense of style with the native flavors and aromas of their beloved Salento peninsula. Where so many tour operators have focused on the rustic character of Pugliese cuisine and viticulture, Paolo and his team have chosen instead to contextualize the materia prima within an intellectual framework.

Excuse the paronomasia amphiboly, but, as the Italians say, it’s pane per i miei denti (my kind of bread, in other words, right up my alley).

I can’t wait to get there in the fall when I return to Italy…

Here’s the site with my translations of Paolo’s critical reflections.

Maybe Paolo will let me do a guest lecture on post-modern Italian literature and wine (hint, hint!).

Jeremy Parzen
webmaster