At Sofia’s Little Italy, in the heart of New York’s most Italian neighborhood, classic Italian food is what it’s all about. There are starters like Polpettini alla Sofia (special house meatballs in marinara with fresh oregano) and a selection of four carpaccios, first courses of risotto and housemade pastas like the gnocchi al pesto, and second courses of whole branzino grilled with lemon and rosemary, and osso buco. There has to be osso buco; this is Little Italy.
Paul Shaked, Sophia’s co-owner with his father, used to wait tables and tend bar at the family’s restaurant, but he had his sites set on a career in finance and management. After getting his degree from New York University, though, he decided to return to the restaurant business instead. He wanted to take over from his dad when he retired, to keep the restaurant in the family. A wine lover himself, Shaked did his homework and remade Sophia’s wine list to highlight lesser known Italian wines.
And at the ripe old age of 25, Shaked opened a restaurant of his own, The Cleveland, just a few blocks away from Sofia’s. There, some of the city’s critics have called the wine list one of the geekiest in town. And in a wine town like New York, it doesn’t get any better than that.