The original Sorrento is a cozy little town in Southern Italy. Where blue Mediterranean waters meet the windswept cliffs of the Amalfi coast. Vineyards, olive trees, citrus groves 1000 years old, and a delightful array of seafood have steeped the region in a rich history of culture and cuisine.
It is in this Sorrento that our founder, Luciano Russo, was born and derived his inspiration. Upon settling into Florida in the 1980's, Luciano found many familiar culinary influences like an abundance of seafood and citrus. But he did not find well executed versions of the cuisines of his homeland. This birthed a passion to bring those flavors to Jacksonville.
And for 34 years Luciano and his family worked tirelessly to bring the flavors of Southern Italy along with warm hospitality to their restaurant at 6943 St. Augustine Road. Patrons became like family, dishes were honed to perfection, and a tireless work ethic ensured that things were done the way they should be. Bread was made DAILY by hand, sauces were home made and simmered through the afternoon to be ready each evening. And every course was served with a homey elegance reminiscent of the family trattorias of southern Italy.
In late 2019 a page was turned in the Sorrento storybook. Luciano had dedicated three and a half decades of his life to tireless serving his patrons, almost without a day off. He was growing ready to embrace his golden years. Upon meeting Jonathan Eddy, on a fateful Monday afternoon and conversing over espresso, a framework was laid to pass the baton.
Jonathan had never owned a restaurant, but with a 15 year career in food distribution he knew how challenging hospitality could be, and was looking for the right opportunity. A passion for food, family, the First Coast, and a deep love of the homey elegance found so often in the small eateries of southern Europe, filled Jonathan with excitement to be entrusted with Sorrento's future. With lots of help from family and friends, and a hefty loan from Jacksonville's own 121 financial credit union, the deal was executed.
Ostensibly the Sorrento transaction was just another real estate deal. But in reality it was much more. It was one Jacksonville family taking their legacy and entrusting it to another. Luciano included his furnishings, kitchen equipment, and most importantly he spent several weeks training the new team in all of his recipes and techniques.
At first Covid19 added a significant challenge and distraction to our transition. But in reality perhaps it helped us have some space to fine tune things in a quieter environment. We are so grateful for Luciano, Adriana, Roberto, and Vitorio. They have been so generous with their helpfulness and friendship as 2020 has crept along.
So what is the rest of the story? Only time will tell, but we can give you a few hints: Executive chef Nedal Mardini and his team have embraced the concepts that Luciano has left for us. From the snapper francese, to the veal positano supreme, to what has to be Jacksonville's best calamari, your favorite menu items are all still there! The red sauce still simmers in that same monstrous kettle...the bread is still made from scratch EVERY afternoon with the first batch coming out of the oven at 5pm just as the open sign lights up in the front window.
Chef Mardini is also committed to excellence and creativity. He is always working on a new special, and every evening you can count on having several unique options to compliment the regular menu. While the food will speak for itself, we believe that one of the most important ingredients in the dining experience is something not found on the menu. It is the hospitality. At Sorrento we hope your visit is an escape from the rigors of your day. Another world, where somehow things are fancy and sophisticated, and yet a bit homey and casual at the same time! Where the smiles are warm, the portions are hearty, and the flavors are rich.
Now that you know some about us, we hope to have the chance to get to know you! We look forward to the privilege of welcoming you into our special little world some evening in the not too distant future.
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