Out front is a sign that reads "Eat Here We Need The Money", which definitely attracted my attention. However this was honestly just them being modest because it actually should've said " Eat Here Because Any Other Option, Isn't Really An Option" ... I'll explain below.
Full disclosure, I'm NOT a huge Italian food fan.... If a restaurant doesn't serve Pizza, chances are I won't go. The ole lady however is the polar opposite and it was her post-birthday so it would've probably been a kamikaze mission for me to try and go somewhere I wanted to go.
Sortino's Little Italy is just as much a staple to Sandusky as Cedar Point.
Some places you walk into feel like a step back in time, Sortino's however feels like you've teleported to Sicily. The decor is chock full of photos of the owner's trips back home and gives you the vibe of being in their home, not their restaurant. No Ikea or Joanna Gaines touches here (Shiplap SHIPLAP!), everything feels authentic because IT IS! Heck they even have a "Godfather Dining Room" available.
You'll easily suspect Grandma Sortino is in the kitchen making everything by hand and in essence you'd be somewhat correct as the recipes are all family ones brought from Sicily when the Sortino's moved here decades ago
God bless our waitress Janine because our group asked more questions than a 7 year old me used to, mainly because we've never had REAL, authentic Italian (and of course all I wanted was pizza...) and everything we saw coming out of the kitchen had us acting like kids at the toy store, you know "OOOO I Want THAT! And That, AND THAT TOO!"
Yea, our indecisiveness definitely made us an interesting group!
Our dinner included the choice of either a Cesar or Antipasto Salad with what tasted like homemade dressings (Blue Cheese & Cesar), and warm airy bread which comes along with a delicious oil and Parmesan sidecar.
As an appetizer, we heard you absolutely had to try the meatballs, like theres no way to go and not try them so guess what? "Meatball Me!"
Everyone was right! The meatballs were very well seasoned and moist without being oily or dry. Absolutely filling and ate like a meal themselves. I could've just ordered them as my meal but I would've missed out the "food blessing" that was to come! And thankfully the lord wasn't about to let that happen!
The downside of dining with friends: YOU order something then as soon as YOUR food comes, everyone gets to hovering over YOUR plate like vultures just hoping YOU'll offer them some (I don't, and won't). Then comes the comments "I wish I ordered that instead" I call this "Plate Envy" .
Surprisingly for once, our indecisive group didn't attempt to turn my plate into a family style offering as everyone's plates looked equally "Uh-Maze-Zing!" I'm a huge seafood fan and the "Fettuccini Mare" was LIFE! Loaded with baby clams, mussels and large pieces of shrimp in a spicy garlic wine sauce. The best of both worlds where other establishments would load your plate with 85% pasta and the rest seafood, Not Sortino's! Here you're family and family doesn't cut corners when it comes to cooking. Pile on the good stuff!
We also ordered: "Chick-A Boom Chick-A Boom"- A pasta dish with among other things, included sausage, pasta, 6 cheeses, peppers & mozzarella, oh and it's topped with large slices of grilled chicken.
"Pasta Soprano"- Marinara with sausage & ground beef blended with romano cheese. Lastly the recipe calls for a dash of "Hot & Cream Sauce" which I admitantally have no idea what that actually is, but that didn't matter because well, it was damn good!
Long story short (don't you hate when people say this after they've already talked for 40 minutes?), if all italian joints had food like this, I'd always patronize them. The food was excellent and equally sleep inducing! The presentation was immaculate and the portions were as large as Buca Di Beppo but they actually tasted good (sorry Buca, great concept but corporations have a way of killing flavor). The atmosphere was fun and really made for a memorable night and perfect birthday dinner!
The picture above is of one of our many leftover dishes, be prepared to take some home. Which in hindsight, isn't a bad thing at all.
Sadly, Sortino's will be closing it's current decade long home on 12/30/2020, but don't fear as they will be transitioning into a beautiful new space down the street inside the Sandusky Kalahari Indoor Waterpark Resort!
For those located outside of Ohio, you can also experience a real taste of Italy by visiting an existing Sortino's open inside of other Kalahari's across the country. One Sidenote, From this day forward, Olive Garden shall no longer be known as OG... The REAL OG is Sortino's Little Italy!
Thanks to our Sandusky, Ohio Consigliere's Liz Bollini & the great people at The Shores & Islands CVB for the strong recommendation!
Find out more about Sortino's HERE and make your reservation now!