‘Ain’t no stopping them’

July 25, 2008
By

JOHN SWAN

Sorella’s celebrates 25th anniversary

HYDE SQ.—When sisters Ellie and Antoinette “Tony” Elias first opened Sorella’s Restaurant on Centre Street at the Hyde Square rotary, friends asked them if they were crazy to go into such a tough area. Now, 25 years later, they just smile at the thought of those considerations as their popular eatery flourishes, helping make Hyde Square a destination point for residents all over the city.

“I love it, creating new dishes and dealing with people, especially families who come in,” said Ellie, a single mom with twin 3-year-olds who is the 10th of 11 siblings. “Our theme song’s always been ‘Ain’t No Stopping Us Now.’”

“The best part of this business is having people enjoy my cooking. Nothing is nicer than that,” said Antoinette, the youngest of the 10 sisters and one brother. And why not? That’s how she met her husband, Scott, a customer who “fell in love with my oatmeal pancakes” three years ago.

It’s actually a familiar story.

“That’s where I had my first date with my husband [Charlie Rose],” said Carol Downs, co-owner of Bella Luna across the street. “Sorella’s is one of those JP gems, an important community gathering place so crucial to the health of the neighborhood.”

“And the past 25 years is a testament to Ellie’s and Tony’s strength and commitment,” she said.

“Sorella’s serves a great breakfast and lunch,” said Damaris Pimentel, owner of the Ultra Beauty salon on the other side of the rotary. “They have a wide variety and open early [6:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., seven days a week].”

Pimentel, who opened her business the year before Sorella’s, also praised the sisters for their part in the “economic stability” of Hyde Square, while maintaining a family-owned business.

“There have been a lot of changes,” said Ellie, “with less drug-dealing and a cleaner, healthier business district. We’ve tried to keep up with the times, adding to our menu, opening up two smaller rooms for the weekends. Thankfully, we own the building.”

The optimal word at Sorella’s is comfort, in both the laid-back atmosphere and fulfilling food.

The breakfast menu includes early-riser specials and breakfast sandwiches ($3 to $6), 24 kinds of exotic omelettes ($7 to $9), 29 regular omelettes, 13 breakfast specials ($6 to $9), nine choices of crepes ($8), 19 different pancakes ($4 to $9), three kinds of waffles, and more.

The lunch menu is just as fulfilling.

“It all comes down to hard work, service and good value. We’ve only raised our prices three times in 25 years. But it’s not that tough if you love it. Sometimes it feels like we just opened yesterday,” she said.

“Time does seem to have gone by fast,” said Antoinette as she cracked some eggs on the sizzling grill, flipped some French toast and glanced at the orders going in through the low window of the small, hot, second-story kitchen that overlooks the main dining room.

“Sorella’s” means sisters in Italian, and the restaurant lives up to its name.

“We do everything together. We love each other so much,” said Ellie. “We may do things differently, but we don’t let that really bother us. What happens at the business stays there.”

“We share a lot of the work, we both cook, but we also have our strengths,” Antoinette said. “Ellie handles the staff, menu and, thank God, the bookwork. I manage the property. It works.”

Other family members also pitch in, including their sister Elaine and nephew Bruce McCormick, although everyone who works there is considered part of the family.

Waitress Sandra Fox said, “Ellie and Tony have been very good to me. They gave me a job right away when I arrived from Ireland eight years ago. I love living in JP.”

“There’s a comfort level working here,” McCormick pointed out. “Everybody pitches in.”

He passed an order through the window to Tony, and paused and looked around. “There’s a lot of history. We started with one small room, and over 25 years so many customers have come and gone.

“The whole time these sisters have done everything possible to make our customers happy,” he said. “They’ve worked hard, and God bless them.”

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