Updated Nov. 25: Sorriso Kitchen is serving up a feast. The eatery, featuring farm-to-table fare and a feel-good vibe, is now open.
Original, Aug. 15, 2018: Chatham borough is about to welcome a new eatery to its downtown. Sorriso Kitchen (Sorriso means “smile” in Italian) will be opened by Chatham residents Jimmy and Karen Bellas. In addition to offering creative farm-fresh breakfast and lunch items, the restaurant, formerly home to Angie’s, is serving up a sweet program that its owners believe will be a recipe for success for the special needs community.
Inspired by their 17-year-old son, L.J., who has Down Syndrome and is known for his ready smile (hence the eatery’s name) and infectious laughter, the Bellas will close the cafe to the public on Mondays, and use it as a classroom or learning lab to train students with disabilities from L.J.’s school, the Chatham-based ECLC (Education, Careers, and Lifelong Community), in service and hospitality. Administrators from ECLC are building a whole curriculum around the program, which the Bellas believe could serve as a model for other communities.
In order to give Sorriso Kitchen and this innovative program a solid foundation, the couple, also parents to son Nico, 14, have launched a Kickstarter campaign, and are more than 80 percent of the way to their $25,000 goal. Financial backing will be used to transform the space and equip it with new appliances and furnishings.
On their fundraising page, the Jimmy and Karen outlined their reasons for opening the Main Street cafe. For Jimmy, who was born into a family of restaurant and diner owners, returning to his culinary roots is a welcome career transition. Karen, with a passion for food and an abundance of artistic talent, has created a customized illustration for the banquette wall that reflects the qualities Sorriso Kitchen will embody. Nico, who has inherited his parents love for cooking and restaurants, looks forward to seeing his big brother flourish in his new role as greeter, welcoming guests to the family-run business.
The couple, like many parents of children with special needs, also expressed their desire to see their son work in a safe environment where he will be respected. And by creating this program, they hope to offer that opportunity to other diffferently-abled adults as well.
“If you think about how this model can be replicated to all different communities that have schools with special needs, I think it’s fantastic; the sky’s the limit,” Jimmy said. “I think it’s a new model of how businesses can support a community at large and a special needs community.”
Plus, the food is going to be “amazing” added Karen, who noted that guests can expect “wholesome and healthy” breakfast and lunch items with a “Greek and Italian flair.”
Behind the stove will be Executive Chef Ryan Chatfield, a Culinary Institute of America graduate. A husband and father of two young children, Chatfield is eager to bring his love for cooking to this creative, farm-to-table family-owned restaurant, Karen said.
The Bellas family also has big ideas for how to use their 45-seat eatery in the evening. According to the Kickstarter page, Sorriso Kitchen at Night will make the most of the space after-hours: “We will be planning a monthly schedule of dinners and entertainment offered to the public. We plan to do so for fundraising, team-building, private events, Breakfast for Dinner Pajama Parties, art instruction events and workshops to name a few. We are excited to be able to provide tremendous opportunities to serve the community.”