Sam’s Restaurant

Review by: Georgia Kral

At one table, a group of 20-somethings celebrate a birthday. At another, a father and his young daughter share a plate of spaghetti. A group of six men in their 50s and/or 60s reminisce about old times in the neighborhood over plates of baked clams and Cokes at another. It sounds like a scene out of a movie, but this neighborhood spot actually exists, and in one of the most unlikely places: Cobble Hill, Brooklyn.

The neighborhood has become very expensive and exclusive in recent years, its the restaurants along with it, but some stalwart Italian spots have remained. Sam’s is one of them. Still owned by the same family, it’s a classic red-sauce joint—you can tell from the relaxed ambiance and the everyone-is-welcome vibe as well as the decor (faux marble statues of unknown origin, faux leather red banquettes and chairs) and signs that read “Today’s Menu: Take It or Leave It.”

The entire restaurant, with the exception of the slim kitchen staff, is run by Lou Migliaccio, the son of the original owner. Lou waits tables, brings wine (and encourages bottles since it’s much cheaper: $20 for a refreshing Italian red!) and seats customers as they come in. Things move slowly as a result, but at Sam’s, time is already stopped, or at least slowed, so it’s all part of the charm.

Sam’s is special in that it’s a great place to eat and feel truly Brooklyn; and it’s also affordable. A plate of pasta—your choice of noodle and sauce—runs between $11 and $16; a large cheese pizza is $20; and a plate of escarole with what seems like an entire head of fried garlic? $7. That escarole was the star dish on our table. The greens were, of course, bitter but the fried-to-hell garlic was so rich that it added a welcome sweetness, creating balance.

Pizza is cooked in the original brick oven from 1930 and has tangy sweetness to it thanks to the sauce, which is applied liberally, along with the cheese. The crust is nice and chewy. The chicken Parmesan is very crisp—bordering on overdone—but the nearly burned edges give the pounded, breaded breast texture that stands up to the cheese and sauce ladled on top. It works, and spaghetti marinara served on the side features a strong tomato taste. Cheese ravioli, served with fist-sized meatballs, tastes like home cooking—and that’s a compliment.

If you crave pizza, pasta and other Italian-American classics without a lot of pretense, you can’t go wrong with Sam’s Restaurant.


What To Eat

Chicken Parmesan

Escarole and garlic

Plain pie

Cheese ravioli and meatballs

Spaghetti Marinara

Plain slice


Sam’s Restaurant Recipes


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