Old blue eyes must be smiling on his boyhood home. A new Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar, Sorellina, has opened its doors at 1036 Washington Street in downtown Hoboken, NJ. Sorellina—which means “little sister” in Italian—is the brainchild of its irrepressible 26-year old owner Gabi Lombardi, a “Jersey born-and-bred” little sister herself from a close-knit Italian-American family. In the spirit of full disclosure, Gabi and I are both graduates of the International Culinary Center’s Wine Intensive program and fellow certified sommeliers through the Court of Master Sommeliers.
Sorellina is conveniently located just two blocks west of Frank Sinatra Drive, which runs along the waterfront in Hoboken. It’s easily accessed not only by those living and working in Hoboken, Jersey City and the surrounding areas, but it’s also a hop, skip and 8-minute ferry ride from the World Financial Center ferry terminal located at Vessey Street in downtown Manhattan.
My wife and I had the opportunity, at the invitation of Gabi, to participate in the “friends & family” soft launch in advance of the official opening last week. Sorellina is an amazing space, occupying the location of the historic former resident, Helmer’s German restaurant, which had operated at 1036 Washington Street since the 1930’s. Guests will immediately pick up on all of the wonderful design touches upon entering Sorellina. One’s eyes immediately turn to the vintage 25-foot cherry bar, an original fixture that dates back to the 1930’s. There’s also a cozy and comfortable 18-foot green leather banquette that forms one side of the seating for several adjacent tables in the main dining area. There is a fine crystal chandelier that hangs gracefully from the ceiling near the entrance. And there are beautiful design touches scattered throughout the restaurant, such as vintage coat hooks on the walls behind the tables. Sorellina is a “fine casual” restaurant and wine bar, with a warm and inviting atmosphere—a place you want to socialize, converse with friends and family, have a meal, linger over a glass of wine (or two), and have a few laughs.
Executive Chef Jan Christie has created a choice “Italian chic” menu of small snacks, antipasti, mains and sweets. My wife and I started with the “pick your own” cheese and charcuterie board, which was a great way to kick-off the meal—served up by our pleasant and attentive waitress, Alycia. Next we had the tangy and tasty red snapper crudo, prepared with a tangerine vinaigrette and shaved pistachios. For our pasta course (Btw, all pasta at Sorellina is homemade and very fresh), we chose the gnocchi with kale pesto. The gnocchi was light and fluffy, and the kale pesto was a creative spin on the traditional pesto formula. We didn’t indulge in a “secondi” (main) course, but was eye-balling the 12-ounce bistecca (ah, take me back to Tuscana), with roasted Italian peppers, for our return visit. We did save enough room this time out for the pasta dolce (“sweet pasta”) with chocolate sauce for dessert (“Dio mio!” … translation, OMG!).
Gabi’s somm training and knowledge shines through the wine list with every selection. She’s assembled an authentic collection of regional Italian wines that pair wonderfully with the menu. My wife and I selected a falanghina, a medium-bodied and medium-complexity white wine from the Campagnia region of Italy (where the capital city of Naples is located). The wine paired particularly well with the crudo and gnocchi. We also shared glasses of the Barolo chinato (an herb-spiced wine made from nebbiolo grapes from the northern Piedmont region) and the passito (a dessert wine from Tuscany).
Does Sorrelina sit alone as an Italian wining and dining experience in Hoboken? No, there are several quality Italian restaurants in the area, but given its “Italian chic” cuisine (Did I mention the home-made pasta?), its top-notch wine list selections and its warm and inviting atmosphere, Sorellina seems destined to have the restaurant world, or at least the part that spans greater Hoboken, on a string.