Steve Samson & Zach Pollack, Chefs/Owners, Sotto Restaurant
Although they both initially pursued other careers, immersive experiences in Italy set the course of Chefs Samson and Pollack
inevitably toward the kitchen. Steve Samson grew up spending summers in Italy with his Bolognese relatives, cooking alongside
his grandmother and mother. He had planned to be a doctor, but eventually left Columbia University’s premed program to enroll
in New York’s Institute of Culinary Education. He emerged a Blue Ribbon graduate and started his professional cooking career
in New York and Maine. Samson then worked his way through Italy with a series of stages at Michelin-starred restaurants, including
Dal Pescatore, Il Duomo, Torre del Saraceno, Quattro Passi, and Il Cascinale Nuovo. When he returned to the States, he began
working with Chef Piero Selvaggio, whom he helped to open the Las Vegas outpost of Valentino, and for whom he headed up the
original in Santa Monica.
Zach Pollack, on the other hand, had his first taste of Italy on a semester abroad in Florence. The Brown architecture graduate’s first stint in the kitchen was as an intern at Neal Fraser’s Grace, where he met Samson. There they bonded over their love of Italian food. Pollack returned to Italy and trained at two-Michelin–starred Ristorante Ambasicata and Verona’s tiny Ristorante Michelangelo. Like Samson, he also staged at Sicily’s Il Duomo.
The two reunited at David Myers’ Sona before launching Pizzeria Ortica, an award-winning restaurant in Orange County. Their latest venture, Sotto, which is focused is on the cuisine of Southern Italy, has garnered much critical acclaim, including Best New Restaurant and Chefs of the Year nods from Los Angeles Magazine in 2011; Best Pizza (2012) and Best Meatball (2011) in Los Angeles, LA Weekly; recognition as one of Esquire’s ‘Best New Restaurants in America 2011’; Angeleno’s ‘Best New Dish’ (Porcetto), also in 2011; and Star Chef’s ‘Southern California Rising Stars’ chef award. In 2012, Pollack was named one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in the Food & Wine category.
Download Steve and Zach's recipe