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Changing up the Kitchen at Sorrento's in Collingswood

New owner Sal Randazzo has big plans for the 30-year-old Collingswood pizzeria, including expansion, a facelift, and a new menu.

Sal Randazzo (right) with his son, John, who will help manage the kitchen as Sorrento's turns over. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.
Sal Randazzo (right) with his son, John, who will help manage the kitchen as Sorrento's turns over. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

When it was time for Gino Sorrento to hand over the reins of the Collingswood pizza shop he'd spent the last 30 years building, he did so to a man he's known for almost as long.

New owner Sal Randazzo, who said he's known Sorrento for about 25 years, has been visiting Collingswood, where his in-laws own property, since the 1970s.

He has high hopes for the business.

"I’ve been in Collingswood for many, many years," Randazzo said. "It’s a very good location; just needs a little bit of sprucing up."

Randazzo said he plans to remodel the entire restaurant, moving around some bathrooms, updating the decor, and eventually pushing into the now-vacant Crosstown Dry Cleaners next door.

He expects the improvements will be completed by the end of February or early March at the latest.

Acknowledging there also will be some recipe changes, Randazzo is banking that his signature pizza dough, which he cuts with Semolina flour, will win over new diners.

"When Gino was there, it was very good," Randazzo said. "[But] people love my crust; I make it a little different."

The pizza business has been good to Randazzo, who's owned shops everywhere from Philadelphia to Ocean City (the 34th and Asbury location is still operated by his niece and nephew) to Washington Township, where his Egg Harbor Road location remains bustling.

He said that Sorrento's will likely take on the Randazzo name as well, and plans to offer trattoria-style dining, al fresco seating, and an expanded menu in keeping with the B.Y.O.B. Collingswood dining scene—"something not too elegant but something really nice," he said.

"I’m going to have some pasta, veal, chicken, shrimp, clams, mussels," Randazzo said.

'Competition makes you better'

Collingswood Zoning and Code Enforcement Officer Mary Ellen Ries also recognizes that Randazzo's success could help strengthen a block of businesses that have taken hold on the south end of Collingswood.

"There’s two other really good restaurants there, Zeppoli and IndeBlue," Ries said. "[The property has a good landlord, nice new lights, [a] garden on the corner, good drive-up business, [and a] parking lot behind it.

"This is the kind of food that people can afford," she said; "this is a place you can go get some pizza, get a good hamburger, hoagie, cheesesteak."

"There’s a doctor’s office next door, a salon; everybody’s happy to see somebody take the corner and spruce it up a little," Randazzo said. 

"I’ve been there since December 16 and heard nothing but positives from everybody coming in."

Bringing more Italian cuisine into the red-sauce-saturated borough doesn't intimidate him, either.

"Competition makes you better," Randazzo said. "Washington Township has 35 or 34 pizza shops. You got so much competition today, you’ve got to be good."

One differentiator Randazzo said his businesses have always employed is supporting local sports teams and school fundraisers. Randazzo's in Washington Township sends off just shy of 200 pizzas to the local high school once a year as a goodwill gesture, he said.

"I support a lot of teams, and that’s what the name has been out there," Randazzo said. "If 700 kids eat my pizza, they go home and say, 'Randazzo makes a good pie.'

"Support your local business," he said. "We all need you. Everybody helps everybody."

Sorrento's is located at 602 Collings Ave in Collingswood; (856) 854-2920.

Rosanne Hewitt January 15, 2014 at 07:11 AM
My family has always loved Sorrento's pizza. Hoping that the new owner will continue the great food. Maybe offer a Gluten-Free pizza option too since everything will be new...Fingers crossed!
Gerry Fuselli January 15, 2014 at 07:22 AM
good luck...had some wings the other night and they were remarkably improved. look forward to trying other menu offerings.
Suzanne Cloud January 15, 2014 at 08:19 AM
Shame you're changing Gino's pizza recipe. It as the best around. I was a constant customer of Sorrentos as long as I can remember and the food was always excellent. Since the new owners took over, the food has been sub par, unfortunately. Many times the restaurant didn't have basic ingredients for sandwiches and the employees have been gruff and stand-offish. Let's hope it gets better, but it'll be awhile before I go back.
Sean Andrew January 15, 2014 at 09:36 PM
Well, what a positive note that was.
Suzanne Cloud January 15, 2014 at 10:31 PM
Sorry, Sean, if you didn't like a bit of honesty. I truly hope the restaurant gets better, but all kinds of bells and whistles mean nothing unless the food is good.
Stacy Rae Franek January 16, 2014 at 11:45 AM
Changing a great pizza is a bad idea....me along with MANY other people go out of our way to go to Sorrentos for their pizza and will no longer be doing so. Renovations definitely needed but that is all. Shame.
Michael Jones January 16, 2014 at 11:57 AM
Sorrento's was one of my favorite shops in town till about a year ago. The quality has dropped off and as Suzanne said, the employees (especially the two older gentlemen that work the counter) are extremely rude. Also the clientele that has been hanging out there also turned me off. I wish the best of luck to the new owner and look forward to the change.
Phil McConkey January 16, 2014 at 03:26 PM
I never understand why people feel the need to voice their negative opinion. If you don't like it don't go there anymore but why feel the need to scream your opinion like it's fact. Did you think maybe the previous owner sold it because business was down and the pizza you loved others did not. Maybe a recipe change was necessry to bring customers back? Can everyone just chill out and let these entrepreneur give their best shot at the American Dream before you run away customers with your negative opinions. They probably invested alot of money and loans and you act like they want to fail.
Sean Andrew January 16, 2014 at 09:37 PM
Thank you, Phil. Exactly. What people like Suzanne don't understand is that not everyone agrees with her ideas either (i.e., Borough regulated light ordinances ) but rather than attack those ideas, it is polite to remain quiet and allow her to continue her crusade for further government intervention in our lives. Either way, it's impolite to pursue negative attacks just because I disagree. Sometimes honesty is impolite.
Suzanne Cloud January 19, 2014 at 09:27 AM
Phil, you seem to like mixing apples and oranges arguments into these comments. My suggestions about light regulations have nothing to do with the workings of free enterprise (a system I'm going to assume you adhere to). Free enterprise requires a free exchange of ideas in order to work and honesty is essential. If consumers keep quiet about a bad product, free enterprise doesn't work, my friend. Please read Adam Smith to get a handle on how economics works in a capitalistic system.
Robb C. Sewell-Wolff January 19, 2014 at 11:46 AM
Suzanne, why are you addressing Phil about comments about light regulations? He made no such reference in his comments.
Will H January 19, 2014 at 10:20 PM
I'm a socialist who thinks Sorrento's always had a solid slice, changing your pizza is risky business.
Suzanne Cloud January 19, 2014 at 10:27 PM
Robb, you're right....my comments were supposed to be directed at Sean. Sorry Phil.

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