Pietro and Vania Grippi signed the lease for Sorriso back in 2017, and it took until May 4 to open the doors of their Italian restaurant on Jericho Turnpike in Garden City Park. Sorriso is Italian for “smile,” and the name has become a word of encouragement for owners who never imagined an arduous journey with such a disheartening denouement.
Inside the little fieldstone-clad building, the tables are set, the bar is backlit. “It looked so sad in here,” Vania said. “At least now people picking up food can see what it would have been — and what we hope it will be.”
There is action in the dining room, however. The eastern wall is dominated by a wood-burning oven that puts out nine 12-inch pies including the house specialty, “Campagnola,” topped with broccoli rabe, crumbled sausage, sun-dried tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. The pizza oven, imported from Italy, is the fulfillment of a dream for Pietro, a longtime pizza guy who was born near Palermo and learned the pizza trade in Brooklyn. Since 2015, he and Vania have owned the casual pizzeria Pietro’s in Oyster Bay, but Sorriso gives them a chance to spread their culinary wings.
To help them fly, they hired executive chef Carl Michael Savino, a restaurant consultant and principal at Carl Michaels caterers, specializing in off-premise catering and craft services for concerts and television and film production. “We didn’t want to be like all the rest of the Italian places around here,” Pietro said. “We wanted a chef to put a spin on the classics.”
Savino may have earned his pay simply by coming up with the second item on the pasta menu: “Italian nachos.” He cuts fresh lasagna noodles into triangles, dredges them in semolina and deep fries them. Then he piles them high with tomato sauce, peppers and covers the works with mozzarella. Other pastas include manicotti alla Sorriso (filled with whipped ricotta, mozzarella, spinach and artichokes and topped with Parmesan sauce) and the more traditional fettuccine Alfredo and spaghetti carbonara.
Mains include chicken Francese, Marsala and Parmesan, shrimp risotto and a few ringers such as porchetta pork tenderloin (with broccoli rabe, peppers, melted mozzarella and cracklings), pesto-crusted salmon with fingerling potatoes, and braised short ribs with mashed potatoes and kale.
Pizzas are $12 to $15; starters, $8 to $11; pastas, $18 to $22; mains, $25 to $36. During the pandemic, everything — including wine and cocktails — is 20% off.
Sorriso is at 2232 Jericho Tpke., Garden City Park, 516-742-8800, sorrisorestaurantgcp.com