Sammy's proves there's more to life than pizza pie

Sammy's has been synonymous with gourmet pizza for years. But, as most La Jollans know, there's much more to Sammy's Woodfired Pizza than the delectable pies that come out of the restaurant's special oven.

A few years ago, Sammy's expanded its menu to include entrees, pastas and tapas. The kitchen is still adding new items, rather than resting on its laurels with the tried-and-true. One of the latest additions to Sammy's ambitious menu is the mini Kobe beef burgers ($8.75). These beauties, made with chipotle aioli, are even better when topped off with gorgonzola or aged cheddar ($9.75). You can enjoy this delicacy with fries or a tasty coleslaw.

The most extraordinary selections are listed under the tapas section. These smaller portioned items - designed for mixing and matching - offer diners the opportunity to sample several dishes. Order a few and share them with your tablemates. They add to the fun of dining at this family-friendly eatery.

Among the excellent choices on the tapas menu are New Zealand lamb chops, marinated in fresh herbs and served with warm vegetable salad ($12.95), macaroni and cheese ($5.25), mini duck tacos with feta cheese, roma tomatoes, cabbage and creamy tomato cilantro sauce ($7.95), Thai chicken satay served with traditional peanut ginger sauce ($6.95), oak-roasted Asian portobello mushroom ($7.95) and smoked salmon thin-crust pizzette ($10.95).

Actually, there are 20 different tapas offerings, including a delicious baba ghanoush, which is roast eggplant dip served with herb flatbread ($6.50), crab, shrimp and artichoke dip crusted with romano cheese and served with herb flatbread ($7.75) and a melt-in-your mouth garlic cheese bread ($5.75).

We love the crispy coconut shrimp skewers ($8.95). These crunchy shrimp are further enhanced by a flavorful orange horseradish sauce for dipping. The mac and cheese casserole, baked in Sammy's wood-fired oven, takes the classic kids dish to new heights with a Tillamook cheddar cheese sauce to add some bite. It's a personal favorite.

The salads are always popular at Sammy's, and you can order them as individual dishes or in larger sizes for sharing ($7.75 or $12.95). This meal-in-one includes marinated chicken breast, gorgonzola cheese and toasted walnuts over mixed greens.

Other favorites are the Thai chicken salad ($7.50 and $12.95), grilled shrimp salad ($7.75 and $12.95), and the Caesar with hearts of romaine, romano cheese, and the famous Caesar dressing ($7.25 and $11.95). You can add chicken breast or even oak-roasted salmon to the dish. Sammy's makes all the dressings, and they're wonderful.

The entree selection features several terrific choices, including the oak-roasted salmon fillet with ponzu salad ($13.95). Barbequed pork baby back ribs with cole slaw or fries ($16.95) is another popular dish. Rotisserie chicken consists of herb marinated chicken with barbecue sauce, fries, sauteed green beans, mushrooms and roast garlic. London broil is also available ($14.95).

The pizzas still reign supreme at Sammy's, so include at least one of these fabulous pies during your next visit. The selections are amazing, from artichoke with gorgonzola and romano cheese ($9.50) and five cheese ($9.75), to teriyaki chicken with bell peppers, pineapple, scallions and a teriyaki glaze ($9.75). There's also garlic marinated chicken or shrimp ($9.95).

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