Opening February 15 on Charleston’s iconic Broad Street, Sorelle marks the joint venture from the internationally celebrated MINA Group and the Holy City’s hospitality titan Beemok Hospitality Collection. Sorelle (pronounced sor-el-lé) will occupy three historic buildings on the north side of Broad, and in the words of executive chef Nick Dugan, the Southern-Italian concept is “a first of its kind” for the two hospitality groups.
Between a casual daytime Italian-style Mercato and an elegant three-story restaurant open for dinner service, Sorelle offers a day-to-night ticket to Italy, whether in the form of Italian pastries and espresso in the morning, Sicilian-style pizza slices and panini prepared on crackling schiacciata bread during the day, or a multicourse dinner with shareable snacks, antipasti, house-extruded pastas, and robust collection of Old World wines curated by Master Sommelier Jeremy Shanker.
Conversations for Sorelle began in early 2020, but the idea was placed on hold as the pandemic progressed. At the time, Dugan and his mentor Adam Sobel (the MINA Group’s corporate executive chef and partner in Sorelle) experimented with recipe development, cooking at each other’s houses and hosting pizza pop-ups.
In 2022, the pair spent a month of research and development in Italy (“The best research is getting out there and digging a spoon into things!” Dugan says). They ate and cooked their way through Sicily, Rome, Tuscany, Sardinia, and beyond. They learned Italian recipes from local chefs, farmers, and nonnas. One such dish (Dugan’s favorite) is the “pillows of gold” ricotta tortellini, served with shaved salty prosciutto cotto and Forx Farm local butter.
“We were in a little town in Sardinia, having lunch with an older nonna,” he says. “She didn’t speak much English, and we didn’t speak a ton of Italian, and she welcomed us into her home, taught us how to roll new shapes of pasta. It was an amazing experience—the energy of hospitality between her cooking and teaching.”
Two of her pasta shapes made it onto the menu: the aforementioned ricotta tortellini and the lorighittas, a braided pasta served with broccoli sofrito, pecorino romano, anchovies, and toasted chili flake—a hybrid of her technique and Sorelle’s flavor profiles, according to Dugan.
“She agreed to make [these pastas] for us, 100 pounds at a time, and ship them to us every two months.”
Another such dish is the pollo al lambrusco, the restaurant’s spin on coq au vin. It’s served with lots of alliums fried in olive oil and is inspired by the luncheon Dugan and Sobel experienced at a balsamic producer’s estate in Modena. At Sorelle, Dugan suspects it’ll become a fast favorite among guests.
Dugan and Sobel also used the trip to form business partnerships with ingredient vendors such as Bona Furtuna, a Sicilian farm that provides the restaurant with its olive oil, balsamic vinegar, almonds, and more, and found exporters in the Emilia-Romagna region for the restaurant’s parmesan cheese and prosciutto di Parma. The Mercato at Sorelle plays a big role in the imported items. Not only can visitors pop by the Mercato for coffee and cannoli, breakfast sandwiches, pizza, eggplant parmesan paninis, or pappa al pomodoro (Tuscan bread soup), but they can also shop Sorelle’s packaged goods, including dried pasta, housemade sauce, gelato, and bottles of wine.
As Dugan went into designing the menu, he had a few revelations about his new home. “The terrior and landscape [between Italy and South Carolina] have a lot of similarities,” says the chef, who previously helmed MINA Group restaurants in Las Vegas and Washington DC. While the dishes are obviously Italian, the menu features familiar names from around South Carolina, including King Tide Farms greens, polenta from Anson Mills, eggs from Storey Farms, and fresh bigeye tuna, clams, and swordfish from the Georgia-based Halperns’ Seafood. Much like many Italian dishes, Sorelle’s menu leans on local ingredients in order to stay true to the Italian concept.
To finish things off on a sweet note, Dugan and Sobel worked with the MINA Group’s executive pastry chef Veronica Arroyo to fuse local ingredients with Italian flavors. The seasonal crostata uses red rome apples from North Carolina, and the tiramisu di riso pairs espresso and chocolate flavors with Carolina Gold rice pudding. One that Dugan particularly loves is the Limone, a Sorrento-lemon-yellow white chocolate shell that encases olive oil cake with lemon compote and creamy vanilla bean ice cream. “You get a little acidity and a little richness,” he says.
Sorelle will operate Tuesday through Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Mercato, and for dinner from 5 to 10 p.m., plus a happy hour at the bar in between mercato service and dinner. Plans to open seven days a week will come after the first month.
(Disclaimer: In full disclosure, my partner is the lead sommelier for Sorelle’s team. If you see Simon talking through the wine list, please tell him he’s doing a great job.)
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