(Something for every Italian taste at Sorella’s. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.) 

By Marisa Marsey

Hibernation season, for me, means hunkering down beneath a mountain of blankets and gorging on classic movies à la “Casablanca” and latter-day faves like “Moonstruck” (that I don’t consider old but seem deemed as such, the way a 30something expectant mother is classified under geriatric pregnancy). I just watched that enchanting film again, and marvel at how nearly every scene from the earnest conversation between Olympia Dukakis and John Mahoney at Grand Ticino Italian Ristorante to Cher sipping red wine as she glams up for the opera sings of the intrinsic intertwining of life and food. I can’t watch it without craving cannelloni and cannoli. And Chianti. So while our bare winterscape prompts simmering a pot of sauce on the stove or ordering in, here are two Italian restaurants worth venturing out for: one brand-new and big-city, the other newish and hometown. Both will send you over the moon.


No whiff of sibling rivalry here (unlike between “Moonstruck’s” Johnny and Ronny Cammareri). The Atlantic on Pacific’s lanky sign proudly proclaims: “Welcome Little Sister,” like a backslapping birth announcement for Sorella’s, the upmarket Italian restaurant around the corner on Laskin from the buzzy, established oyster-lover’s haven. Their restaurant family includes eldest sib Eurasia, up the road a tad west, meaning this threesome is poised to be an epicurean ellipsis for the Oceanfront’s inchoate Artery district.

With 220 seats, Sorella’s (Italian for Sister’s), isn’t so little; it possesses sweep and sophistication, dressed in a palette of blues, browns and bronze, glossy Carrara marble and seemingly flour-dusted exposed brick. The founders did extensive R&D, scouring hip eateries in Rome, Naples and Le Marche, an Eastern region on the Adriatic (where Sicilian-born GM/partner Vincent Amato had his wedding in a 16th century castle), as well as in the U.S.

Likewise, the menu covers a wide swath of territory to appeal to many, explains executive chef/partner Dave Brue. It’s big into charcuterie and antipasti (beef carpaccio, panzanella), riveting Neapolitan pizzas (black truffles and pancetta; shrimp puttanesca) and big plates of bone-in ribeye and whole grilled fish, plus 13 pastas made in-house.

Those of us partial to dining at bars will be split on where to sit: at the pasta bar, ringside for watching the wiggly extrusion of linguine, bucatini, conchiglioni and other winsome shapes, or at the cocktail bar where classics get a modern Italian accent and the wines impress.

Daily “Happy Hour” (3 p.m. to 6 p.m.), featuring $5 off all pastas and pizzas, is prime for both. Seating includes tall-backed booths, and there’s a room for 60 that expands the main dining area or partitions off for private affairs. In case you want to have a family reunion of your own.

356 Laskin Road, Virginia Beach. 757-937-2998. Open Mon.-Thurs. from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Fri. & Sat. from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sun. from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. sorellasvb.com



Good thing toes grossed out Kellii Norris or we might not have Basilico’s, a little gem of a casual Italian eatery near Naval Air Station Oceana. “My mom wanted me to do nails. I took one look at one lady’s feet and walked right out and over to ‘Mr. Tony’s,’” she says, reminiscing about the origin of her Italian immersion as a teen at Tony Palazzotto’s Roma in Hampton.

Though Vietnamese-American, she’s well-versed in the cuisine and culture of il bel paese. She tosses out Italian idioms as deftly as her husband, the eponymous Giuseppe (“call him Joe”) Basilico, tosses pizza.

They met when both were employed at Palazzotto’s family’s Eastside Pizza in Portsmouth, but years would pass – he worked at various establishments including Primo and she for upscale retirement communities – before the pandemic made them rethink their future. They decided to take a chance at “making their dreams come true” and opened Basilico’s last summer.

A welcome variation from your standard-issue pizza-pasta joint, the kind you just breeze into to pick up a pie, Basilico’s is a step up, perhaps a whole flight, with its contemporary farmhouse-chic brio layered atop a rustic soul. Despite bustling takeout and delivery operations, it’s suited for an easygoing, low-key date night or family-friends meetup.

Care and integrity shine through in an extensive tradition-rooted, forward-thinking menu of antipasti, salads, pizzas (including creative specialties, stuffed and N.Y.-style by-the-slice), pasta (even build-your-own where you pick sauce, pasta, protein and veggies), platters (chicken, veal, seafood) and panini like “Out to Pasture” (New York strip – you specify pink or no pink – pepper jack, crispy onion, tomato, arugula, horseradish cream and balsamic glaze) and chicken pesto on homemade focaccia.

Especially beloved is Nonna’s Pizza, which needs to be ordered 90 minutes in advance to allow time for the dough to proof. Light, airy and thin-crusted, Joe hand-crushes San Marzano tomatoes and goes heavy on the garlic for it. Kellii says, “It tastes like a fresh pizza that someone’s grandma just made.”

Bridget Bachand reflects their care with cordial, unflappable service even on the busiest nights (say, any Friday) when juggling all 30 seats.

Don’t skip dessert, be it one evening’s butter cake with caramel sauce in the role of revolving dolce sorpresa (sweet surprise!) or the ever-present, boozy tiramisu. Kellii fatigues her arm muscle whipping its zabaglione for about a dozen minutes. 

Discounts for active-duty military and healthcare workers and generous “Early Bird” and “Happy Hour” deals sweeten this spot still more. It’s mom-and-pop, for sure, but the cool mom and pop you’re not embarrassed to have your friends meet.

1329 Oceana Blvd., Suite 140, Virginia Beach. 757-937-0982 or 757-937-9609. Open Tues.-Sat. from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Sun. from noon to 9 p.m. (Last tables seated at 8:30 p.m.) orderbasilico.com