Thursday, September 26, 2013

Where to Eat: Gourmet pizzas and more @ Sammy's Woodfired Pizza

The Eats: Gourmet pizzas and more

The Location: El Segundo

The Vibes: Casual, laid-back, open, chill

With-Whom-To-Go: Great for large groups and kids

When-To-Go: Open daily starting at 11am; daily happy hour 3-6pm

The $ Factor: $; Everything a la carte is in the $8-$15 range

The 4-1-1: There are more than 18 locations in Southern California and Nevada. The original Sammy’s opened in La Jolla more than 30 years ago; the El Segundo location opened as the first LA location slightly more than two years ago.

I'll be back: For the pizzas, but also the appetizers, the salads, the entrees, the desserts, and definitely the Messy Sundae, yes, definitely that...

I’ll admit—I judge books by covers.

My downfall?

I have a thing against chain restaurants. Applying a cookie-cutter approach to a throng of establishments feels against everything my blog is about: finding those unique, one-of-a-kind, L.A. gems that can’t be duplicated.

So with some hesitation, I ventured into Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza in Plaza El Segundo, mostly because the positive reviews I kept reading and reading and those tempting pictures of the Messy Sundae (more on that later) had more than sparked my curiosity enough to put aside my irrational bias towards chains to find out what made this place so special that it could not only stay in business for 30 years, but continue to expand year after year.

And thus my admiration and respect of Sammy's was born. 

The first noteworthy fact to mention is that while yes, Sammy's is a chain, each location has its own individual flair. The Studio City location is completely different than the El Segundo one, which is very laid-back, very casual and super kid-friendly. The manager explained to me that even customers’ orders differed by location…multitudes of martinis in Studio City, but never in El Segundo. Here, the cocktail of preference is the margarita, pictured below, made with agave nectar and Cointreau, and other key ingredients, like tequila, lemon and lime.

That brings me to my next point … Sammy’s cocktails are pretty decent. The ones I sampled met the three simple standards to which I hold all my cocktails: be pretty to gaze at, be tasty to sip and most importantly, do be strong. The menu of handcrafted signature cocktails balances a good dose of originality and classics, along with a versatile range of options.

But onto more important things like their namesake: the pizzas. Sammy’s uses organic flour and a woodfire oven to create little round masterpieces with their own little personalities. The crust is more on the thin side, very crispy and very light. It compliments all of the different toppings and isn't mushy or too overbearing. Check out the “LaDou’s Barbecue Chicken” and the “Prosciutto” pizzas, pictured below, respectively.

But honestly, as much as I enjoyed the pizzas, I really enjoyed everything else on the menu: the appetizers, the salads, the desserts. I cannot stress enough; Sammy’s is so much more than pizzas. They have exceptional light, California-fare, so don’t be afraid to venture out and try something amazing, like the Crab & Shrimp Dip with artichokes, served with herb-encrusted grilled flatbread, pictured below.

Or...try the Organic Kale Salad, tossed with figs, feta cheese, almonds, crisps and a pomegranate dressing. It truly bursts with fresh flavors, the perfect balance of all of its featured ingredients. Don’t wait too long though; it’s on a special Mediterranean menu that will only be at the restaurant for a limited time.

And, you absolutely cannot walk from the table without first treating yourself to the Messy Sundae. Talk about fireworks in your mouth. The crunchiness of the walnuts juxtaposed to the smooth, velvetiness of the warm chocolate and caramel sauces—all slithered on top of ice cream and underneath a mound of frothy whipped cream—is divine.

So the next time you’re in the mood not only for delicious pizza, but for light California-inspired fare that won’t leave you in a food comatose, in a chill environment, where you can kick back in your Bermudas and rock your open-toed sandals, I highly recommend heading down to Sammy’s in El Segundo.

See you there soon!

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