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.