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all photos: Jeff Martin

Our love for Ghibellina has been well documented on these pages (this past Saturday, in the middle of ALL THAT SNOW, at least 3 BYT staff spontaneously found themselves enjoying their pizza and prosecco happy hour, and that’s saying something, given the plethora of surrounding options and all)

So, when we learned that Ari and Stacy Gejdenson were planning to open a brand new bar/restaurant underneath it, we were all over it. The new location, SOTTO (which means “below” in Italian) opens on March 3rd at 1610 14th street NW. The location it occupies was once the location of HR-57 and Sotto is taking some inspiration from that fact: there will be live jazz, blues and neo-soul music happening here with some regularity, once the team settles in.

The menu, overseen by chef Keith Cabot (formerly or Menu MBK), is regional American, mixing Southern and Midwest influences, with snacks inspired by state fairs (the Cracker Jack inspired caramel corn dusted with chili-lime salt looks like something we’ll gladly nibble on on any occasion, and don’t even get us started on how good the Pretzel Monkey Bread sounds), a healthy selection of smoked meats and nostalgia inspiring desserts like poached apple with popcorn, molasses, and caramel ice cream.

One of Ghibellina’s main strengths is their long, winding bar – and Sotto seems to carry that philosophy over. The drinks menu is overseen by Daniel Barnes (who also is in charge of all of the upstairs libations, as well as the cocktails at Denson Liquor Bar) and is inspired by the Jazz era in DC, with drinks with names like Jack Rose and ED Ellington and Groover peppering the menu.

Add to that flattering lighting, a great location and all that aforementioned jazz, and you got yourself a solid gold BYT DATE GUIDE addition for 2015, and the year has barely started.