“The core of Venetian cuisine is very similar to Japanese—concentrated on the product, not on the sauce that surrounds the product,” says Luca Manderino, South Bay restaurateur, explaining the difference between dishes in Venice, where he was born and raised, and those from other corners of Italy.
It’s a difference he’s showcasing at his brand-new Hermosa Beach spot Sosta. The restaurant, which officially opened last month, is a continuation of Manderino’s local culinary imprint that includes his longtime former haunt, La Sosta Enoteca, located at the “five corner” intersection where Manhattan Avenue segues into Hermosa Avenue, and briefly, at another location along Highland Avenue in Manhattan Beach.
“It’s a new start for me,” says Manderino. “I’m starting again from the roots. Literally.” He is doubling down on his Venetian origins at the intimate, candle-lit spot among Pier Avenue where simple wood tables and French doors create an informal charm—a look he favors. “I always like clean and rustic,” says Manderino.
His fans will recognize the romantic atmosphere and the welcoming chef-owner offering artfully presented plates of authentic Italian fare and meticulously chosen Italian wine. “My parents had two restaurants,” he says of his training. “I was raised in the kitchen.” It was in these Venice kitchens where he gathered the skills to create menu staples such as homemade gnocci, and specialties like Ribeye Tartare, Spaghetti with Salted Anchovies and Whole Branzino. Not to miss is a selection from Sosta’s wine list. All Italian, with about 45 labels and growing, the list features a variety of choices from north to south, and ranging in price from $30-plus to $2000 per bottle.
“Venetian inspired” is how Manderino classifies the cuisine at Sosta, and it’s his authentic twists that make the place a creative, already popular standout in South Bay’s restaurant scene. (The restaurant is open for dinner, and Manderino recommends reservations if you’re planning to visit Thursday through Saturday.) There’s a raw seafood appetizer, with a creative rotation of fresh ingredients, and Manderino’s ever-present yen for delighting diners with dishes they might not readily order, but learn to love.
“I always add something that is considered unusual by American standards,” he says. “For example, I do tongue; I do lamb heart; I do the tendon of the cow’s leg—I don’t put them on the menu though.” Instead, he may send a taste to the table for customers to try. “Ninety-nine point nine percent of the time people say, ‘I would never order it, but it’s so delicious.’ For me that’s the way to get the customer engaged on what Italian cuisine is.” sostacucina.com