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WORKING ON A SECOND DREAM, PLUS PIZZA

vincent-sorrisoSicilia owner Vincent Sorriso with custom tiles that depict the seascape of his native Sicily. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Vincent Sorriso says he and his family are fulfilling dream No. 2.

For nearly a decade, the 30-year-old Sorriso and his parents have operated two of the Saladworks franchises, one in the Monmouth Mall and the other on Broad Street in Red Bank. But he says they’ve always longed to replicate what they had done years before, in their home country of Italy, and run a family-owned restaurant.

Within weeks, Sorriso says they will.

The family bought out the struggling Broad Street Filling Station last month and is renovating the space so the newest venture, Sicilia Cafe, will be ready to go by end of August.

sicilia-cafeSicilia Cafe is moving into the space previously occupied by Broad Street Filling Station. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

Broad Street Filling operated right next door to Saladworks, so Sorriso knew the owners, Pete Burr and Glenn Saldarini.

“It was tough. They weren’t doing good,” he said. “It’s tough in Red Bank. The rent’s not easy. Times are tough.”

He said he made them an offer to purchase the business, and they accepted.

“We always wanted to do an Italian place,” said Sorriso, who was born in Sicily and raised in Red Bank. “When the opportunity came up, we said why not do it next door, so it’s easier for all of us?”

So that begs the question: can yet another Italian place in Red Bank stand out?

Sorriso thinks so. He and his family are from Italy, have authentic recipes and have succeeded both overseas and here for years. He says Sicilia’s menu will carry fresh bread and pastries for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, and gelato and espresso for dessert, which will appeal to a range of customers.

And what would a new opening in Red Bank be without pizza? Sicilia will have a little bit of that, too, though reluctantly.

“I was going to do a pizza (place), but right now, everywhere there’s a pizza place,” Sorriso said. “Every place you walk by is pizza. We’ll have some conventional oven Sicilian pizza.”

Sorriso said his mother, Mary Alice, will share recipes and train the kitchen staff. He’ll be baking bread and whipping up the gelato, he says, which is another dream of his.

“I really want people to taste a real gelato,” he said. “There’s other places — I’m not naming anybody — that call it gelato, but it’s not the real thing.”

Sorriso prides himself on offering the real deal. He knows it’s a tough business, but doesn’t want to leave Broad Street anytime soon. That hasn’t entered the realm of possibilities for Sorriso and his employees. There is, they say, room in town for one more Italian joint.

“We’ve been here for 10 years. We’ve got a pretty good customer base,” said Phil Sfraga, a manager. “People are ready to come.”

There will be limited seating inside, plus outside dining. The store hours are tentatively scheduled for 7a to 9 or 10p, seven days a week.

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