Steve Samson, Chef/Owner
Steve Samson grew up spending summers in Bologna, Italy, his mother's hometown. Life in Bologna was centered around the dining room table. While cooking alongside his parents and grandparents, Steve realized a strong connection between food, family, and tradition. These early experiences have greatly influenced his point of view as a chef.
Steve started his professional career in New York and Maine after graduating from New York's Institute of Culinary Education. It was upon returning to his own hometown, Los Angeles, that Steve met his mentor, Piero Selvaggio. Steve spent six years working with Piero, the last two as executive chef at Piero's flagship, Valentino in Santa Monica. During this time, Steve did numerous stages throughout Italy, cooking at famed Michelin-starred restaurants such as Dal Pescatore, Il Duomo, La Torre del Saraceno, and Quattro Passi.
In 2009, Chef Samson realized his next career goal by opening the award-winning Pizzeria Ortica in Orange County. While at Ortica, StarChefs recognized Steve as one of Southern California's Rising Star chefs.
Wanting to return to his hometown, Samson partnered with his wife, Dina Samson, and Zach Pollack to open Sotto in 2011. Sotto achieved immediate acclaim, being named one of Esquire Magazine's “Best New Restaurants in America” and Los Angeles Magazines #1 “Best New Restaurant". After six years, Sotto remains as popular as ever, largely because Chef Steve has remained committed as ever to tradition and craft.
Craig Towe, Chef de Cuisine
Chef de cuisine Craig Towe has been cooking Italian food for over 8 years, but his passion for food and hospitality formed while working as a server in restaurants throughout high school and college in his hometown of Houston, TX. It was not until after graduating with a marketing degree from Texas State University and working a “9-to-5” that Towe realized he was happiest around food and restaurants. This led him back to school, enrolling at Le Cordon Bleu in Austin, TX. Towe’s first job on the line was at beloved culinary institution, Hudson’s on the Bend, where he stayed for two years. He would then move to the Philadelphia to help a friend open a restaurant, and eventually he made his way to New York City. Towe earned positions in notable kitchens, including A Voce under Missy Robbins and Hillary Sterling, and then Marea, Ristorante Morini and Osteria Morini under Michael White. Most recently, he studied the history and techniques of pasta at world renowned La Vecchia ScuolaBolognese, in Bologna, and upon return to the States joined the team at Sotto.
Dina Samson, Managing Partner
Dina Samson is a Managing Partner at Sotto. Samson developed her acumen for business by spending 15 years in the world of finance, both as an investment banker and in hedge fund operations. Seeking a change of scenery, literally and professionally, Samson came to Los Angeles to enter the world of video game production. When her husband, Steve, sought her expertise in financing his first restaurant, she soon became integral to the nascent restaurant’s operation. Mentored by restaurateur Bill Chait, Samson would step in as Sotto’s first general manager. She has now taken the lead on all of Sotto’s operations. Samson also miraculously finds time to raise the couple’s young twins, while also overseeing operations at Chef Steve Samson's second restaurant in DTLA, Rossoblu.
Jeremy Parzen, Ph.D., Wine Director
Jeremy Parzen, Ph.D. is a widely published wine and food writer and historian who writes mostly about Italian wine on his popular blog DoBianchi.com. A native southern Californian, Jeremy and Sotto owner and executive chef Steve Samson met more than 25 years ago when they attended their junior year abroad together in Italy on a University of California exchange program. In 2011, Steve asked Jeremy to create an all-southern-Italian wine list for Sotto, resulting in a wine program called "one of the most interesting in LA" by the LA Times and "one of LA's best Italian wine lists" by LA Magazine. Today, the list remains devoted to the noble red grapes of southern Italy: Aglianico, Palagrello Nero, Casavecchia, and Gaglioppo, among others. When not tasting and writing about Italian wine or traveling in Italy, you'll find Jeremy at home raising and writing songs for his family, Georgia P (age 4) and Lila Jane (age 3) and their mommy Tracie P.
Brynn Smith, Bar Director
Brynn Smith is Sotto’s bar director. Intrigued by a Craigslist ad offering applicants a way to learn new bar techniques, Brynn entered the world of bartending on a whim. Little did she know of the aptitude she would show for cocktail-making. Brynn learned her craft from Los Angeles cocktail legend Julian Cox, working under him in her first bartending job at Rivera. Brynn moved on to be a member of the opening team at Sotto, behind the bar from day one. She has since taken over as bar director, reinventing Sotto’s cocktail menu to feature innovative yet rustic recipes of her own creation. Brynn also relishes the opportunity to highlight Sotto’s extensive collection of Amari, and relishes the opportunity to share her knowledge of the underappreciated Italian spirit with patrons.
Andrew Avanian, Assistant General Manager
Andrew Avanian is the Assistant General Manager at Sotto. A native of Boston, Massachusetts, he moved to Los Angeles to study film at Loyola Marymount University. Avanian tried his hand at acting, but instead, found himself immersed in the restaurant industry by way of a personal food blog he started to keep in touch with his mom. He has worked in the industry for a number of years, including at places such as Border Grill, Daily Dose Cafe, and Bucato. In 2016, he landed at Sotto – first as a server, then a bartender, before working his way up to Assistant General Manager. With a knack for systems, processes, and how things work together, Avanian is eager to build his management skill set and keep up the smooth day-to-day operations of Sotto.