I have heard from several folks that this place has the “best Italian food”; even better than my favorite – Sotto Sopra. “Even better than Little Italy?” I was determined to find out. From the outside, it’s definitely hard to know what to expect. I can’t imagine they have changed much since they opened about 10 years ago. The inside is certainly charming, but not similar at all to the trendy and modern spots that have opened more recently. We walked in to a massive crowd who had rented out the entire bottom section of the restaurant, including the bar. After my experience, I can totally see why the couple of regulars wanted to celebrate an anniversary dinner at Sammy’s.
I had a few moments to peruse the wine list, which has a decent by the glass selection. The bottle list is even longer. I started with the Pinot Grigio – which they serve in these cute monogrammed glasses. The wine – Alta Luna, from Italy – was nice, fruity and a little on the sweet side for me. It was a perfect start, but I eventually switched the Pinot Noir from Casalero Del Diablo in Chile – it was perfect for my meal. It started of with deep fruits, but finished smooth with earthy tones.
The food menu is truly extensive. I don’t love the font of this menu, it makes the whole thing feel a little busy. There are several appetizers, salads, and even pizzas. A bunch of the apps were calling my name, but we eventually settled on one. They have an entire page of both pastas and entrées. The dinner selections come with sides of veggie or even a pasta with your favorite sauce, so when you can’t decide, you can still have both.
They start every table with bread service – Italian bread with a garlicky olive oil. This was perfect as I was starving and was still staring at the menu. There was absolutely way more olive oil than needed for the bread, but we probably could have gotten more. This was plenty for two of us.
Next we had the carpaccio appetizer. Gorgeous, paper thin slices of raw beef filet served with toast points (which I think are just white bread – not sure it’s even their Italian bread) and a mixed green salad dressed. I liked this; the beef was delicate and tender – as it should be. The salad had a mustard dressing which added a little tang and asiago cheese. I also love capers and these were huge ginormous capers, not the baby tiny tiny ones you get out of the jar from the grocery store. I would have liked a tad more salt and maybe some fresh black pepper, but overall worth $11.
After the bread and the carpaccio, I went with a pasta dish. We both did. The portions are also big, so I still had to take some home. I couldn’t decide. The server, who is a family member of the owners, helped me pick between the duck ravioli and the gnocchi. She said both were good, but the duck was made earlier that day and it’s never better than when its fresh. Plus, it came with the same sauce that was enticing me with spinach and cheese pasta dumplings. This spinach pasta was cooked perfectly al dente and filled with a gamey, but tender duck. The pasta was the highlight, our server did not lie. The sauce was sold as a sage brown butter sauce with wild mushrooms. These particular mushrooms don’t look very wild to me, and I didn’t taste a ton of sage, but I will be back and I will order this over and over again.
Matt went with the Orecchiette con Broccoli Rabe. I don’t love broccoli rabe; its a little too bitter for me normally. I tried his ear shaped pasta and when you combined the greens with the fresh Italian sausage, I actually liked it. Maybe because the whole dish is sautéed with garlic and onions, or the spice of the sausage or the creaminess of the white beans balanced out the bitterness. This was also a winner.
I felt like I walked into a secret garden finding this spot. The homey, family style atmosphere totally explains why those who have been keep coming back and recommending it. The outside, does not entice new folks to come in to this charming establishment. I will definitely be back and I will most definitely keep recommending it. I will have to wait for a pumpkin pasta, before I love it more than Sotta. If the new place in Fells, is anything like this – I will be a regular there as well.