One eatery in Chatham is taking service with a smile to a whole new level. Sorriso Kitchen is a new restaurant that serves breakfast and lunch, but also serves the community in a different way. The word sorriso means “smile” in Italian, a notion that is extremely important to the family-owned establishment.
Owners Jimmy and Karen Bellas live in Chatham and have two sons; Nico, who loves food and family restaurants, and LJ, who brings a smile to everyone he meets. LJ has Down syndrome, but it’s his positive attitude and big heart that are the inspiration behind Sorriso Kitchen.
Service with a Sorriso
Open since November, the eatery – which can seat 45 – resides in the former home of Angie’s Family Restaurant. Jimmy comes from a long line of restaurateurs and grew up in the family business of owning and running restaurants. In fact, the couple met at his former restaurant, Pazzo. Their vision for Sorriso is to create a unique eatery that also supports the special needs community. So far, they’ve done just that.
“We wanted the environment to be warm and welcoming and for guests to feel the way LJ makes people feel—happy,” says Karen. For her part, Karen uses her artistic talents to achieve this feeling through Sorriso’s interior design. “Every detail from color, lighting, logo, menu design and the simple palette of black/white/mustard was thoughtfully considered. We added personal touches all the way down to the black and white paper straws.”
Karen even made a wallpaper mural that incorporates family members and inspirational messages. “It’s all part of the dining experience for the customer,” she says. “We wanted it to reflect who we are and what we want to deliver: Delicious food served in a creative way.”
Meanwhile, their work with the special needs community is equally important. Every Monday, the restaurant closes to customers and becomes a ‘classroom’ for young adults with special needs. Particularly, Sorriso trains students with disabilities from LJ’s school—ECLC of NJ (Education, Careers and Lifelong Community) located in Chatham. Of course, the focus of the curriculum is the service and hospitality industry. The Bellas family, along with the school’s administrators, built a curriculum around the program.
According to Karen, the students learn a different part of the restaurant experience each week.
“We hope that what we’re doing inspires businesses to offer training and education so that people with special needs can develop skills and confidence for employment,” she adds.
Sorriso Kitchen serves farm-fresh breakfast and lunch items, making fresh-baked goods daily. Moreover, you’ll find Italian and Greek influences on the menu. “The menu reflects how our family likes to eat,” says Karen. “We’re passionate about serving quality food with exceptional service.” To that end, many of their ingredients come from local farms.
Guests can expect breakfast favorites like pancakes and waffles. In addition, French toast varieties include bananas foster (caramelized bananas, bourbon, brown sugar, candied pecans); or stuffed brioche (blueberry whipped goat cheese, orange zest, berry compote). Then there’s Chef Ryan Chatfield’s Maple Bacon Beauties; these thick-cut smoked bacon cubes with bourbon barrel maple syrup and candied pecans are a house favorite.
“The real star is our Sorriso breakfast potatoes,” says Karen, describing the alternative to home fries or hash browns. “Folks are raving about them.”
Sorriso Kitchen is on 252 Main Street in Chatham. They can host private events in the evening, do off-premise catering and also offer take-out. For more info, call them at 973-665-8068 or visit their website.
All Photos: : © Sorriso Kitchen / Jennifer Lavelle Photography (used with permission)