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Great Eats: Sorge's

If you were born into the Sorge Family of Corning, there was a very good chance you would wind up in the restaurant business. Renato and Loretta Sorge opened the Italian eatery that bears the family name in 1951. For sixty-five years, Market Street has been where generations of residents and tourists have experienced the timeless dishes at Sorge's.

Michael Sorge and his wife Christine now carry the family flag after the retirement of his brother Joe. Michael credits their continued success to a strict adherence to his parents' standards. "We have not changed a thing about the original recipes. The sauce, the homemade pasta, it is the same now as what my parents started with. You serve excellent food at a good price and you do it quickly and efficiently. That keeps people coming back."

Those people include both locals and tourists. Dinner at Sorge's is a tradition for many families, especially during the holiday season. Often families come before or after their church services on Christmas Eve. The grandchildren of those early customers are now savoring the lasagna and manicotti that make family occasions even more special.

While located in the same spot for its entire life, Sorge's has undergone many changes. In the 1960's, the first Mr. and Mrs. Sorge expanded the dining area and added a banquet room in the '70s. But the most dramatic alteration was not planned. The restaurant was completely destroyed by fire in December of 2008. "The only thing standing was one wall," Michael remembers. The timing was horrid on a several fronts. Not only during the holidays, but also just as the economic downturn was gaining speed and financing for businesses drying up.

What happened next clearly demonstrates why the Sorge Family loves to own a business in Corning: the community rallied to support the rebuilding of Sorge's. "I guess everyone, from the residents to the city officials, wanted to see us come back." So much so that the other restaurant owners in the Gaffer District organized a fundraiser at the Wings of Eagles Museum to support the triumphant return.

It was a wise investment. Recently, Michael and Christine announced that their daughter and son-in-law will assume the mantle of ownership in two years. A third generation of Sorges will be in charge. When Renato approached his sons about coming into the family business, Michael says his father was "very generous to us." It turned out to be a benevolent gesture for generations of Corning families as well.

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