Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza and Grill
Do you like vegetarian
and vegan that’s not shaped like SPAM?
Will you eat pizza in a pan
from a wood-fired oven, if you can?
I love to eat meat, this is true
but I’ll try veggies here with you
and all this food that’s fresh, not canned
I’ll bet I’ll love it, Sam-I-Am!
Unlike the nameless protagonist in Theodor Geisel’s timeless tome, I don’t harbor an aversion to green food unless it is vegetable material making a sad effort to approximate meat. Sami Ladeki opened the first of the western chain of Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza & Grills in La Jolla, California back in 1989 under the catchphrase banner touting “Healthy Global Cuisine”, although the restaurant’s name belies the variety of fresh food menu items (including a healthy offering of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free dishes) in addition to their wood-fired pizzas.
A good portion of the menu is categorized as tapas (trademarked as “Tapas Tapas” so that you don’t forget), even though most of the dishes are considerably more substantial than typical sharable fare. Vegan, vegetarian and/or gluten-free offerings are indicated as such on the menu (with some that can be converted with a little customization). If you’ve selected Sammy’s as your date destination in order to appease your meat-eschewing dining partner, neither of you will be disappointed. You can savor the Mini Duck Tacos, the cutest little crispy tacos you’ve ever seen in your life. Each stands in attention in a sturdy kefir ribbon, lovingly nestling mild chunks of duck tenderloin topped with tomato, Feta cheese, Napa cabbage and a tangy cilantro dressing, with an odd litter of lettuce strewn about the plate in what appears to be for foliage. Your conscientious guest can nibble at stir-fried, sesame-sprinkled Shishito peppers with a ginger miso dip and play the fun game of Guess the Heat (your first three or four may be as mild as a bell pepper, with the insidious capsaicin-laden lava fruit hiding in the middle of the stack) – the simple omission of the dipping sauce magically transforms the dish into vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free.
Your nasty animal-flesh cravings are easily appeased by the Japanese-style Chicken Meatballs; while this may come across as a way to avoid pork or beef, the choice of yard bird complements the dish and is worthy of your friendly neighborhood yakitori. The meatballs have a dense, compressed texture like a fine ground sausage and are braised in a sweet tare sauce that is served along with the meatballs. Unfortunately the syrupy tare settles at the bottom of the bowl, so be sure to ladle it over the meatballs before you finish the ones on the top – the sauce colors the meat without overpowering it. The hummus is simple and flavorful and although it is normally accompanied by a grilled herb flatbread, go with the gluten-free option which provides sweet Bibb lettuce cups for a cooler option with more moisture in each bite.
The vegan Red Quinoa salad seems inappropriately named; although there’s a liberal amount of the grain present, it serves more as a sesame-like texture against the strong, bitter wild arugula. Fortified with diced golden beets, tomato, avocado, red onion, parsley, almonds, mint, and scallions, the salad imparts a very green, fresh and wild flavor, with the citrus chili vinaigrette providing a nice character. There are larger entree items available from the grill, but it’s easy to get full grazing from the tapas menu. In the event you’ve saved room for dessert, many locations pride themselves on their cotton candy made in house. If you’re imagining a paper cone with a football-sized nest of spun sugar clinging to the top, you’re in for a little shock; the cocoa powder-dusted treat is approximately the size of a kettle drum and probably shouldn’t be attempted by any less than a table of five. Oh, yeah, did I mention they make pizza?
I tried the veggies and some meat
and all the food was good to eat
I don’t mind that they had no lamb
I do! I like them, Sam-I-Am!
NOTE: This cost for this meal was provided by the restaurant. The content provided in this article was not influenced whatsoever by the organizer of the event.