‘There aren’t many opportunities’ – Family restaurant helps people with special needs

Posted: Updated:
CHATHAM -

A New Jersey teen who has Down syndrome is the inspiration behind a restaurant in Morris County.

Sorriso Kitchen in Chatham operates like any other restaurant. But Karen and Jimmy Bellas opened it with their son L.J. in mind.

"I think socialization and eating are his two favorite things while he's here,” says Karen.

The Bellas family opened the breakfast and lunch spot partly so that their son can have a place to work and learn new skills.

"Right now we're actually training him to be a host,” says Jimmy. “He is greeting people at the door, taking them to their tables, seating them."

“It really excites me that I know that he will be able to work in a place that will be his,” says Karen.

And while the restaurant was opened with L.J. in mind, the family says that thought wanted to help others with disabilities like him.

“We’re helping L.J., maybe we can offer the restaurant up as a classroom to the school,” Karen says.

Sorriso is closed every Monday and students from the “ECLC” learning center come and learn basic skills in the service industry.

"There aren't that many job opportunities available for them and we're hoping this helps raise awareness a little bit,” says Karen. “And we hope we can help employ some of the other children that he goes to school with."

The family says that the idea behind the restaurant’s name comes from the Italian word sorriso which means “smile.” The family says that this is something L.J. does every day.

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