Sorella, New YorkThe founders of Sorella, Emma Hearst & Sarah Krathen, met in the educational portion of their culinary journey. It was then that they established their similarities in beliefs about restaurants. One of them possessing a passion for back of house operations, while the other focused on front of the house made it a perfect match. Their search for cultures and other people sharing their beliefs is how Sorella was born.
Sorella is the "sister" conceived on a journey throughout Northern Italy. The ladies found a love for Piedmont's cafe culture that insisted they bring the feeling back to New York. The small villages and cities of Piedmont were the only places in the world they found they loved even remotely as much as they loved Manhattan.
Sorella is a family. Not connected by blood, but by a mutual love for tasty food and wine. Artisanal products of every sort have a permanent place in this cozy, sparkly Lower East Side home. Emma and Sarah built their home on memories, inside jokes, and as much wine paraphernalia as possible. They thrive to make every client a member of their little family ....
Sarah took time out from her busy schedule to answer some of our questions and to tell us about Sorella:
Q: How long have you been open?
Sorella has been open since the end of November 2008.
Q: What made you want to open a restaurant? What was your inspiration?
Both of us have always wanted to open a restaurant. Sorella was inspired by our friendship, our travels together and our mutual love for Italian food, wine, and hospitality. We wanted to create a different kind of experience.
Q: What did you do before operating this business (career before coffee)?
Prior to Sorella opening, we both worked in various restaurants and had a small catering company together that we ran out of a 5th floor walk up apartment. We met at the Culinary Institute of America, from which we are both graduates.
Q: What kind of establishment is Sorella?
Sorella is a Piedmont-inspired restaurant and wine bar. The design is wine-inspired – barrel stave ceiling, wine painted walls, riddling rack storefront) and very personal, down to the pictures of Emma’s dogs in the bathroom! It’s cozy and comfortable with great music always playing in the background.
Q: Tell us about your customers: what kind of demographic do you cater most to? Are you a destination location or more of a neighborhood establishment? When are your busiest times and why?
That’s a tough one. We have quite a broad clientele. There are young downtowners, older uptowners, industry folk, and enthusiasts. (I can’t stomach the term “foodie.”) It’s a great mix. Being that we are a Piedmontese restaurant in Chinatown, we see neighborhood peeps and are also a bit of a destination location.
Q: Tell us about your menu and the quirkiest item on it.
The menu is Emma’s interpretation of Piedmontese cuisine. There are a lot of modernized traditional dishes along with some creative creations. The Pate de Fegato (duck fat English muffin bread with chicken liver mousse, fried egg, and sugared bacon) is probably the quirkiest item. It is also one of the most popular along with the gnocchi, tajarin, and side of brussels sprouts. The other items change seasonally, and I could not possibly pick a favorite as all the food at Sorella is delicious. Everything is made in house … breads, pastas, gelato ... there is a lot of love in this food.
A bicerin is a traditional hot drink from Torino made of espresso, drinking chocolate, and lightly steamed whole milk. It dates back to the 1800s, and was price regulated by the government at one time to ensure that everyone could afford this treat in the harsh winters of the Alps. At Sorella, a bicerin is chocolate pudding with a layer of espresso fudge (Counter Culture espresso, of course) and lightly whipped cream.
Q: What's your coffee of choice?
I’m a latte gal, so is Emma. The main thing I look for is consistency. Good espresso pulled and served properly with skilled milk by a friendly barista. The friendly aspect is probably the hardest to find in the city. As soon as someone remembers me when I walk in, knows my order, and makes it delicious … I’m hooked and loyal.
Q: As a restaurant, you've gotten a lot of attention for your coffee. What prompted you to give that portion of your menu so much thought?
I can only hope that crappy coffee will someday be extinct. It saddens me that so many restaurants put so much into food, wine, and service and then drop the ball when it comes to the coffee. It’s more expensive to do good coffee, but it’s so worth it. It’s the last impression the guest will have, why not make it awesome? When it comes to leading charges, Emma and I are just the little guys. We’re honored to be recognized for our coffee and thrilled to be a part of this industry. We just want to give the best possible experience. If ever we are credited with leading the industry in any charges … well, that would be pretty cool.