“Sotto casa” is an Italian idiom that translates roughly to something like, “below the house” or “on your doorstep”; in English the closest phrase we have might be something like “just around the corner.” Italians Laura and Luca Arrigoni opened their first Sottocasa pizza restaurant in Boerum Hill quite literally “below the house”—it’s situated on the ground floor of an old residential building. But the pair were in love with more than the literal meaning of the name. They wanted Sottocasa to become a neighborhood joint just around the corner: an inclusive, homey space where everyone feels welcome.
With their second location in Williamsburg (and third that just opened a few weeks ago in Harlem), they seem to have achieved just that. Sottocasa Williamsburg has quickly become known in the neighborhood for its lively biliardino (foosball) tournaments on Wednesdays. It’s a fast-paced game on a competition-grade modified Garlando Maracanà White table, which probably means something to foosball fanatics.
And their food ain’t bad either. The pizza dough, which they also sell separately for take-home use, sits and rises for 48 hours before it’s used. At lunchtime, the pizza dough is used to make paninis ($10 with a side salad). And their paninis aren’t what most Americans would think of as a typical pressed panini. Half a ball of pizza dough is popped into the pizza oven for a few minutes, then pulled out, cut in half, ingredients sprinkled, then folded and put back into the oven. It’s surprisingly simple, and surprisingly delizioso.
During brunch and dinner Sottocasa doesn’t serve the panini (the process takes longer than it would be worth to serve the dish during high-volume hours), but instead you can order the Fresca, which is similar to the panini (it’s folded) but larger and a little more high-end with Mozzarella di Bufala, prosciutto di Parma, cherry tomatoes and arugula.
Another standout pizza is the Laura (tomatoes, mozzarella, mascarpone, speck, rosemary), which is named after owner Laura, though she says she wasn’t sold on the idea of adding rosemary to a pizza until she tried Luca’s version and secretly fell in love with it. There’s a gluten-free option for all the pizzas, and a gluten-free panini is in the works, too.
Sottocasa, just around the corner from McCarren Park, seems like it’s in the neighborhood to stay. They’re hosting monthy art openings and eclectic music on Thursday nights, and now that warm weather is on the horizon, their patio will probably get pretty bumpin. So get there before it gets too packed.