Brazilian born and raised, of Italian parents from Veneto, Paula Bolla-Sorrentino is passionate for art, design and Italian culture. With fashion and design background, she had the opportunity of traveling around the world with top fashion designers, as well as worked in one of the most prestigious design firms of New York, Pentagram Design, as Graphic Designer. Graduated from FIT, but with the hospitality industry in her heart, Paula runs all visual and organizational aspects of Il Gattopardo Group’s restaurants, from Art Direction and flowers, graphic design, and customer relations, to make sure that guests are not only exposed to a wonderful gastronomical event on the table, but to a whole sensorial experience.
Name: Paula Bolla-Sorrentino
Home city/ country: Brazilian born / Italian Heritage / 20+ years New Yorker
Current Occupation: (student, current job, etc.): Restaurant Owner of Il Gattopardo, The Leopard at des Artistes, Mozzarella & Vino, and Il Gattopardo Catering …and Designer by heart!
Time I wake up: 7AM
First thing I do in the morning: Make breakfast for my two kids (8 and 13 years old) and try to get everyone off the bed. On at least four days a week, an hour of yoga/stretch/core exercises is mandatory for my physical, and mental, sanity!
My typical breakfast: It varies, most of my mornings I am more health conscious and dig into a bowl of muesli, yogurt and Manuka honey. However, sometimes I surrender to an old passion, warm Italian bread with butter. Freshly grounded Italian coffee is always a must!
Here's what my morning commute is like: No days are alike, ever. After taking the kids to school, and if the weather is nice, I walk to my office in one of our restaurants, Il Gattopardo. It takes a solid 45 minutes walking south through Central Park, when I enjoy my favorite songs or catch up on a missed podcast. When it is too cold, or I am in a rush, my husband and I drive to work in Midtown together. Yes, we (happily) work together!
Once or twice a week, however, I go to New York Flower Market in Chelsea to choose the best and freshest flowers, branches and plants for our three locations, as well as for my creations for our busy private dining department. I've been doing that for the past 18 years and really feel at home in the market! Flowers for me are not something merely enjoyable, I am literally in love with it, they are my absolute creative outlet!
I spend most of my day doing: As everyone who has ever owned a business before knows, when you are on the front line you do whatever needs to be done. In my case, with our three restaurants - Il Gattopardo, The Leopard at des Artistes, and Mozzarella & Vino - plus the busy catering department, I can be found in the office taking care of our graphic needs (Graphic Design is actually my formal training, as I take close and personal care of all our web/print materials and campaign needs), in the kitchen going over menu details with our Chef Vito Gnazzo, in the back of the house organizing new supplies, by a sink creating floral arrangements, by the front desk greeting our loyal customers, on the phone with our associates and purveyors, or in a business meeting with my partner (and husband) Gianfranco.
This is what fascinates me on my daily routine: there is no routine. Every day is about finding a way to do things better, more efficiently for our business, more inspiring for our staff and more welcoming and delicious to our patrons. The restaurant business is a VERY hard one; you better love it if you are planning to stay in. Our motto is “passion is our main ingredient”, and we are not kidding!After work or school, I like to: Open a great bottle of Sicilian wine.
A fun night for me includes: Friends and family connections, delicious and simple food, awesome music, and inspiring conversation.
Time I go to sleep: I have to work on that. It never happens before midnight...
Last thing I do at night: Drink tea. Actually, the whole family has tea each night before going to sleep.
My favorite thing to do for fun: Besides being with my children? Art and design, food and yoga! Graphic design, interior and floral design. To set the mood. Floral design has become over the years my addiction. I am constantly in search of new materials and ingredients, and creating new ways of expression.
My biggest fear right now: The deplorable direction in which our country is heading.
My biggest hope right now: To guide my kids, in the best way I possibly can, in the direction of their happiness and self-discovery, and to inspire the best in them.
Someday I'd like to: Be able to teletransport myself! To have more time to enjoy the simpler things in life. To go back to painting and collages, and to grow my own culinary ingredients. I also want to volunteer more to causes that are close to my heart.
The biggest challenge I have overcome so far: Family is everything to me, and their health is of a big concern. Most of us take health for granted until something happens, then one day you wake up and life isn't so perfect anymore. These life changing situations teaches us to enjoy every day to the fullest, and to appreciate precious moments. It did to me.
The biggest challenge I hope to overcome: To learn how to drive (yep…I love the countryside, but have always been a big city girl!)
Being a woman is wonderful because: We can be sharp as a needle and determined as an eagle; but we are also soft, seductive and forgiving. We can create a new life, and that’s for me the biggest privilege and magic of being a woman. Being a woman is a challenge because: Women may be sometimes wrongly perceived as weak or vulnerable, and in some cases men’s insecurity can stand in the way of our ideas of freedom and expression to spread. We are equal, and that is challenge for some to understand. I also think that some of the obstacles facing women nowadays are a result of the so-called "acceptable" (invented and often shoved down to our throats) concept of beauty, and by the competition among women themselves. I see a slow change on that front, but we still have a long road ahead.
What's one thing people don't understand about your culture that you'd like to clarify to the international community? I am not sure. I would be curious actually to learn what the first thing is that comes to people’s minds when thinking about Brazilians and Italians.
What's your favorite meal or recipe that is a specialty of your culture? I've tried to cut down on my meat consumption, and to a certain extent I've succeeded, however, being from the most southern tip of Brazil, I can't resist a juicy "churrasco" (a way better version of BBQ typical from my region) once in a while. I also love all kinds of vegetables and grains. Right now I am totally in love with farro and the ancient grains.
If you could ask the Mogul community anything, what would it be? Completing the sentence “Today I…” (to be answered with anything you’ve done today that directly impacts your life or the life of others). In our home, we play “Today I…” with the kids at dinner. It is amazing what comes out sometime!
How do you feel that the world is better (or not) because of you? I try to do my best to positively impact the world around me. I believe that we can change anything if we have the will to do so, by doing little things every day; to bring joy to others, to be a reliable person, to share and to respect, to learn and to teach, and to agree to disagree to issues in order to achieve a greater result.
I am a Mogul because: I don't consider myself a "Mogul", or at least I've never seen myself as one. I work very hard, and put my heart and soul into whatever I do. I certainly hope I can somehow make an impact on other people's life, and to inspire them to always be positive and to strive to go beyond their potential.
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