Sammy’s Trattoria, housed between Mt. Vernon and Station North, won the City Paper’s acknowledgement as “Best Italian Restaurant” in 2013 instead of an Italian restaurant in Little Italy. Our take is that the Italian restaurants in Little Italy aren’t what they used to be. In most cases, you wonder if the third or fourth generation of the founders of those restaurants just don’t have the drive and passion that made those restaurants a success or perhaps the Little Italy establishments have grown too accustomed to getting business from visitors to Baltimore that they don’t have to work hard to get. Sammy – yup, there definitely is a Sammy! – grew up working and trained at Chiapperelli’s in its glory days and particularly when Sammy is around his trattoria, you can feel the combination of good food and personal attention to customers that contributed to making some places in Little Italy a Baltimore legend.
Sammy’s dining room is an interesting, two-story tall space full of windows on two sides with eighteen tables, a fire place left over from its origins as a one time Baltimore upscale town house, an open kitchen at the rear and another smaller, additional dining room above the kitchen with a view of the main dining room.
Sammy’s menu features 10 appetizer ($8 – $12), several side salads ($8-$12 – and including the “Julia” salad which is Sammy’s take on famous “Chiapp”s salad.). There’s about 18 pasta offerings ($15-$25) and 18 Entrees ($18-$29). We enjoyed some Italian baguettes served with olive oil while we reviewed the menu. Marty and his friend, Marta decided to share a Julia Salad while John and JT decided to share an “Antipasti Freddi” ($10). Our waiter nicely served the Julia salad on two plates – this iceberg lettuce salad is a standard Marty favorite at Sammy’s. The Freddi appetizer made a hit with John and JT with thin slices of prosciutto di parma, fresh tomatoes, basil on top of slices of fresh mozzarella plus artichoke hearts drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, Kalamata olives and capers. Delicious!
For our main course, Marta selected the “made here” Gnocchi ($16); Marty opted for Linguini Con Vongole ($18), JT decided on Judge Oshrine’s Eggplant Lasagna ($16) and John ordered Jimmy’s Seafood Fra Diavolo ($24).
Marty’s Linguini was topped with over a dozen clams. He decided to try out his new “low carb” approach to eating pasta and picked up one strand of pasta at a time carefully taking one bite and swallowing that before taking the next. The result was that he only ate 1/3 of his pasta! Bravo Marty!
Marta’s gnocchi was simply prepared with the potato dumplings in a cheese sauce.
JT’s Eggplant Lasanga was order without pasta but was a tall portion with broccoli rabe and fresh
mozzarella; He much enjoyed it!
John’s Seafood Fra Diavolo earned his “Thumbs Up!” – the spicy marinara sauce avoided being overly spicy but packed a gentle kick that reminded you that this was “Fra Diavolo” style pasta sauce and enhanced the jumbo shrimp, crab, scallop and tender calamari that was mixed with pappardelle pasta (While he was happy with what he ordered, it seemed that the dish could have included a bit more seafood and pasta considering the $24 price)
While we enjoyed our dinner, we had hoped to have a chance to see and chat with Sammy (who regretfully wasn’t there). Our meal and service was satisfying and we had no room to even think about dessert.
FACTS: Sammy’s Trattoria; Mt. Vernon; 1200 N. Charles Street; 410 837 9999; http://www.sammystrattoria.com/; Open for lunch and dinner Monday-Friday; for dinner only on Saturday & Sunday; Full Bar; Valet Parking on Friday and Saturday evenings; Walking distance to the Myerhoff or Lyric theaters.