ALEX COGGIN ’16
Busy with the crowds eating dinner before the Saturday night concerts and plays began, Sorella on Main Street in downtown Hartford was packed and lively. With a long wait for tables as we did not have a reservation, my friends and I opted to sit at the bar.
Owned and operated by the same people as Dish Restaurant, located just across the street, Sorella serves up classic Italian food in an atmosphere that blends casual and upscale.
Sorella features a real wood oven in the back of the restaurant. The restaurant is large and seats close to 100 guests while also offering a large bar area. The restaurant was full at 6:30 p.m. on a Saturday, so reservations on the weekend are recommended.
Parking in the area is a bit dicey, but street parking is available, and there are several parking garages and lots nearby. There was no parking available on the street so I had to park in an adjacent garage for a few dollars.
Noise level is relatively high, and dim lighting gives Sorella a warm, inviting atmosphere. Tables are simple and wood, giving a casual familial feel to an otherwise upscale dining room. The familial atmosphere is fitting given that “sorella” is the Italian word for “sister.”
The menu is classic Italian comfort food, with the main dishes centered on house made pastas and wood fired pizza. There are also some contemporary variations on the classics, like a kale Caesar salad. Ingredients appeared to be sourced locally when possible, as the menu cited local farms and producers on many of the items.
Appetizers include selections from a charcuterie and cheese menu and other Italian favorites such as garlic bread and veal and ricotta meatballs.
Sorella also offers several local Connecticut beers on tap and a large wine menu, as well as a full bar.
For starters, we ordered fried calamari and garlic bread. The calamari was a large portion, served with a tangy saffron aioli. The garlic bread featured Parmesan, mozzarella, and provolone cheeses, and the taste was buttery, light and not overly garlicky. The dish came served on a large plate with a side of marinara for dipping and a steak knife for slicing.
For entrees we chose chicken Parmesan, shrimp scampi, and barbecued chicken pizza. The chicken Parmesan was massive. It was served with two large chicken breast cutlets heavily topped with cheese, sauce, and draped over linguini pasta. The sauce was simple, with large chunks of tomato adding a hint of sweetness. The chicken was smothered in melted mozzarella and provolone. The chicken was a bit firm in texture and could have benefitted from additional tenderness.
The shrimp scampi was a highlight as well, with several large shrimp tossed in angel hair and a classic garlic scampi sauce.
The barbecued chicken pizza featured red onion, pieces of shredded chicken, aged cheddar cheese, and a barbecue sauce drizzle. The crust was crispy and captured the flavor of the wood oven. The onions were a great addition, as their tanginess cut through the richness of the cheese, chicken, and barbecue sauce.
Prices were mid to high with pasta entrees in the $15 to $20 range and pizzas in the $10 to $15 range. Appetizers fell in the $5 to $10 range. Drinks ran standard in price compared to most Hartford restaurants.
Portions were generous; the chicken parmesan was large enough for two, and the personal pizzas are a good size for one person.
Overall, the experience at Sorella was very positive. Service was friendly and the food was delicious. I was surprised that I had not heard of or been to Sorella before given its downtown location and popularity. For classic Italian comfort food with a lively yet familial atmosphere, Sorella is a good place to try for a weekend night out.
ALEX COGGIN ’16