CHATHAM, NJ - Karen and Jimmy Bellas were on a walk with a purpose last year, looking for a place to open their new restaurant in Chatham.
Their walk took them to Angie's Restaurant, where they sat down in one of the booths and left with a deal to take over the eatery from retiring owners, Louiza and Jimmy Poulimenos.
On Wednesday, Chatham Borough officially welcomed Sorriso Kitchen to 252 Main Street with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Sorriso Kitchen not only filled the void left by the closing of Angie's, a staple in Chatham for 27 years, but it has become the forever feel-good family story with the owner's special-needs son, L.J., and their connection to ECLC school in town.
Chatham Borough Mayor Bruce Harris welcomes Sorriso Kitchen to Main Street
"For L.J., it gives him a place to work, where he's respected and he's part of the family business, and Nico (another son) has expressed in the restaurant business as well," Jimmy Bellas said. "In addition to helping out our son, we asked what else can we do for the community and special needs kids at large?
"This idea bubbled up that if we close one day a week and the place is empty, why can't it serve as a classroom? The school is building a curriculum for kids to give then real-life skills in the service industry."
ECLC Principal Jason Killian talks about the Monday classes at Sorriso Kitchen
Jimmy Bellas grew up in the restaurant business. His dad had owned multiple restaurants on Long Island and he had sold his own restaurant 20 years back.
"Basically, the boys were our inspiration to get back into the restaurant business," he said.
Chatham resident Karen Bellas talks about the origins of Sorriso Kitchen, which was an idea talked about over the dinner table
Sorriso Kitchen features an executive chef, Ryan Chatfield, who is a graduate o the Culinary Institute. The breakfast/lunch eatery features farm-to-table produce with eggs brought in fresh from local farmers. Baked goods are provided by Balthazar Bakery.
Sorriso Kitchen is open Tuesday through Sunday, six days a week from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. during the week, and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.