Jozi's arty Sotto Sopra is two exciting Italian restaurants in one

This upmarket eatery and cocktail bar aims to become one of SA's top 10 restaurants. Co-owner Henri Martens tells us more

07 February 2020 - 00:00 By Belinda Mountain
Sotto Sopra's modern decor reflects the modern cooking techniques used in its kitchen.
Sotto Sopra's modern decor reflects the modern cooking techniques used in its kitchen.
Image: Michael Holiasmenos

Situated on the Keyes Art Mile in Rosebank, Sotto Sopra is an Italian restaurant that’s inspired by the artistic environment that surrounds it.

Officially open since the end of January, we spoke to co-owner Henri Martens on their unique offering and exciting plans.

Tell us more about the concept behind the restaurant.

Our focus is on taking traditional Italian flavour profiles and coupling them with modern cooking techniques.

Our restaurant is split into two areas: Sotto – our vibey and artsy pizzeria, deli and cocktail bar where the focus is on sociable eating and sharing dishes called stuzzichini or cicchetti.

And Sopra, our fine-dining side, where we focus on signature dishes, tasting and pairing menus, and exceptional dishes inspired by some of the top restaurants in the world.

Some of the cuisine on offer at Sotto Sopra.
Some of the cuisine on offer at Sotto Sopra.

There’s a walk-in wine cellar which accommodates up to 10 people at our Chef’s Table, where we create interactive encounters with our chefs and sommeliers.

Who owns the restaurant?

I’m the operating partner along with Piero Carrara who owned Cornuti in Illovo, Stella e Luna in Parkhurst and still owns Cornuti in Plettenberg Bay. Piero has been in the industry for over 30 years and hails from Verona in Italy.

I’ve also worked in the food industry for over 20 years in Europe and locally, and come from Italian heritage, as my family hail from Florence. I’m a chef by trade and although not qualified, I’m also a knowledgeable sommelier.

Some prosciutto from Sotto Sopra's deli.
Some prosciutto from Sotto Sopra's deli.

My goal is to become one of South Africa’s top-10 restaurants, have our bar compete in world-class cocktail championships, and achieve accolades for service excellence.

What other goals do you have for Sotto Sopra?

I want the restaurant to become part of the art scene here. With all the art galleries around us, there’s no reason not to soak in all the beauty and then come experience art on a plate with us afterwards.

When you’re finished dining, we invite our guests for a bit of after-dinner fun with some dancing happening from 10pm onwards.

• Visit Sotto Sopra at 21 Keyes Avenue, Rosebank. It's open from Monday to Thursday from 12pm-10pm and Friday to Sunday from 12pm-11pm. Call 010 824 0777 or visit

Image: Supplied

This article was originally published in the Sunday Times Neighbourhood: Property and Lifestyle guide. Visit

Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments? Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.