By Kelley CarlsonSammy’s Woodfired Pizza is perhaps best known for its namesake pies. But that’s just a slice of the offerings from this restaurant chain, whose flagship site is in La Jolla. General manager Russ Henschel recommends coming in for an early dinner at the La Jolla location (around 5 p.m., before the rush begins) and sitting on the newly remodeled patio, which provides an airy feeling.
Find a spot in one of the reupholstered white booths and gaze up at yellow, white, orange and pink flowers hanging from baskets between pillars, or glance at the patio sides with the “living walls” of plants. A fireplace sparks interest in the center; a white awning provides some shade while it’s still light outside.
To kick off the meal, Henschel suggests ordering the Mini Duck Tacos, which are topped with feta cheese, tomatoes, cabbage and creamy tomato-cilantro sauce. Other tapas from which to choose include Hummus and Parmesan Crusted Artichokes, or there are soups such as Kobe Beef Chile. Next, “order one of our fresh salads,” Henschel said. The most popular is the Balsamic Grilled Chicken Salad, but options also include Chilled Roast Vegetable and White Tuna and Spinach.
“Top it off with a pizza,” he added. “You can’t go wrong with any of our pizzas.” There are more than a dozen woodfired pizzas — Organic Arugula and Pear, Margherita, Hawaiian Pineapple and so on. In addition, there are rustic Neapolitan and artisan thin crust pizzas.
Guests who desire an entree other than pizza can select from a number of pastas, tacos, mini burgers, sandwiches, wraps and specialties such as Oak Roasted Salmon Filet and Grilled London Broil.
To finish the meal, order Sammy’s signature dessert, the Messy Sundae, Henschel said. Children have a special menu that includes pizzas, salad and pastas, and kids can color on it while they wait for their meal.
Besides the patio, there are other areas of the restaurant to nosh on food. Inside, there are the main dining room, bar and “east side” that are decorated in warm, earthy tones, with wood tabletops, brown booths and some walls that incorporate stone. Large windows provide views of the businesses and pedestrians along Pearl Street and Draper Avenue. A TV high up on one wall broadcasts sporting events; top 40 music plays in the background.
Patrons seated at the bar can get a glimpse of the staff creating pizzas and baking them in the woodfired oven.
A private room that seats 14 is similarly decorated to the other areas, but also features a pair of prancing horse sculptures on a narrow ledge with wine bottles stored in racks neatly above them. There is no charge for the use of the room, but there is a two-hour limit, Henschel said.
Sammy’s often fills up with guests after 7 p.m. during the summer, and they often stay late, although as the days get shorter, the dinner rush starts around 6 p.m., Henschel said. Late-lunch clientele often arrive between 3 and 4 p.m., and Saturday afternoons are busy as well, he added.
The restaurant frequently hosts fundraisers, with Sammy’s donating 20 percent of a bill (not including gratuity) to a specific nonprofit on a designated night. “Our commitment to customer service, along with the standard of the kitchen, what we serve and the ingredients we use are what makes Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza stand out,” Henschel said.
Sammy’s Woodfired PizzaAddress: 702 Pearl St., La Jolla; nearby locations include 8650 Genessee Ave., UTC, and 12925 El Camino Real, Del Mar
The Vibe: Casual, Relaxed
Signature Dishes: Mini Duck Tacos, Hummus, Balsamic Grilled Chicken Salad, LaDou’s Barbecue Chicken Pizza, Chicken Tequila Fettuccine, Messy Sundae
Open Since: 1989
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday; Summer hours open until 10 p.m. daily through Labor Day
(858) 456-5222Reservations: Recommended for parties of six or more
Patio Seating: Yes
Take Out: Yes
Happy Hour: No
On The Menu Recipe
Each week you’ll find a recipe from the featured restaurant online at lajollalight.com. Just click Get The Recipe at the bottom of the story.
This week: Sammy’s Chilled Roast Vegetable Salad (gluten-free)