Take a Look Inside Sotto, 14th Street’s New Destination for Music and Meats

An American bar-restaurant from the Ghibellina team debuts beneath the Italian eatery.

Sotto brings live jazz, smoked meats, and classic cocktails to 14th Street. Photography by Amir Lowery (courtesy of Sotto).

The 14th Street crowd will have a new place to hang next week when Sotto, a bar/restaurant from Ari and Stacy Gejdenson, opens its doors on March 3. The name means “under” in Italian–a tribute to its location beneath sister restaurant Ghibellina–but that’s the only major European detail of the subterranean space. While Negronis are poured above, the moody haunt takes its cues from DC history thanks to its former incarnation as one of many homes for the HR-57 jazz club, and offers a menu of regional American cooking. Here’s what to look for when it debuts on Tuesday.

Smoked meats, caramel apples

Brisket, ribs, and sausage may sound like fare for a barbecue joint, but chef Keith Cabot is taking a regional American approach. The former Menu MBK chef de cuisine mixes influences from the South–he spent years in Virginia and North Carolina–and the Midwest, particularly items inspired by state fairs he visited with his Minnesotan family. You’ll find snacks like caramel corn dusted with chili-lime salt (a cheffy riff on Cracker Jack), alongside mesquite- and hardwood-smoked meats drizzled with a house-made sauce Cabot describes as a cross between Heinz 57 and A1. There’s also a lineup of house-made sausages, like lamb merguez with curried cauliflower, and a vegetable-heavy selection of appetizers and sides to make up for the meaty mains (see a menu sample below). Sadly there’s no fried Snickers for dessert, but a poached apple with popcorn, molasses, and caramel ice cream should satisfy carnivalesque cravings.

Communal seating throughout includes a bar fashioned out of a single piece of wood.

Communal seating

Plates can be eaten solo or shared–refreshingly in a big, family-style way instead of tiny tapas. There’s less choice when it comes to seating. While a hostess will still guide guests to spaces, everything is considered communal. The long bar is fashioned from a single piece of wood, while picnic-style tables and oversize booths provide the other seating. A limited number of reservations will be available for larger parties.

Jazz Age-style cocktails

Barman Daniel Barnes, who also crafts the sips at Ghibellina and sister watering hole Denson Liquor Bar, created a list of seven cocktails inspired by the Jazz Age heyday and the corresponding scene in Washington. The Groover, for example, mixes gin, pineapple juice, Dolin Blanc vermouth, and Cocchi Americano, while the Trolley Car combines spiced rum, blood orange, and bitters.

Look for live blues and jazz nightly once the space is up and running.

Nightly music, and more to come

Once the Sotto team settles in, music fans can hear nightly tunes from small jazz, blues, and neo-soul groups (generally one to three players, given space constraints). The kitchen will remain open until 11:30 on weeknights, and potentially 12:30 on Friday and Saturday, while the space caters to revelers until last call. Much further in the future, the Gejdensons will begin construction on their three Ivy City projects for 2016, which will include a small diner and Italian pizza place similar to Ghibellina. In the meantime, grab a sparkling cocktail and get jazzed on 14th.

Sotto. 1610 14th St., NW; 202-803-2389. Opening hours (March 3): Tuesday through Saturday 6 to 2, Friday and Saturday 6 to 3.

Sample Cocktail Menu:

Right Away

rye / amaro / cardaramo


gin / pineapple juice / dolin blanc / cocchi

Trolley Car

spiced rum / blood orange / angustura

Suit and Tie

vodka, ginger / sweet and sour /angostura

Ed Ellington

scotch / lillet rose / cranberry / orange

Jack Rose

brandy / combier / lime / apple bitters

Sparkling Cocktail
prosecco / plum bitters / sugar

Sample Food Menu:


Ball Park Peanuts & Popcorn

Chili | Lime | Sea Salt

Pretzel Monkey Bread

Apple Mustard

Sotto Potato

Provolone | Chives


Wood-Oven Roasted Winter Squash

Crispy Sage | Brown Butter | Toasted Pepita Granola

Hen of the Wood Mushrooms

Poached Farm Egg | Crispy Farro | Thyme

Brussels Sprouts Salad

Herb Cream Dressing | Garlic Croutons | Pomegranate

Endive & Citrus Salad

Orange | Spiced Hazelnuts | Shaved Radishes



Accompanied by Figs Poached in Red Wine


Accompanied by Curried Cauliflower, Capers and Raisins


Accompanied by Woodfire Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Smoked Meats:

Beef Ribs

Pork Ribs

Beef Brisket


Crispy Local Fish

Roasted Poussin

Parsnip | Mustard Seeds | Persimmons


Braised Kale

Marble Potato Salad

Fennel Gratin


Poached Apple

Popcorn | Molasses Gateau | Caramel Ice Cream

Banana Bread

Candied Pecans | Dulce de Leche | Chocolate

Lemon Curd

Pistachio Crumble | Mint Jelly | Crispy Merengue

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.