By Rick Riozza 

Let’s put an end to all these “Sammy” sightings we keep hearing about.   One of our valley’s venerable restaurateurs, professionally and affectionately known as Sammy G, is back living a dream:  “It’s been my dream of a lifetime to enjoy the most intimate of dining—it’s what I do, it’s my place.”  Indeed, it is.  His new restaurant in town is simply named Sammy’s Place.

Easy enough to find, right on the corner of Hwy 111 and Date Palm Drive in Cathedral City, Sammy’s Place has been opened less than a month and already his following of friends, loyal customers, and foodies of all types have converged at this intimate dining spot.   Wine lovers will find it inviting with its lengthy wine bar that comfortably seats and tends the lusty vino desires of our wine community.

The warm, friendly, and familiar surrounds of this Italian restaurant definitely accents Sammy’s strive for intimate dining.  With this smaller dining room atmosphere, this place cannot be anything but cozy.  This is tableside service at its best: a welcoming and efficient staff headed by one of the most genial and beloved restaurateurs in town.  And Sammy G intends to treat his diners as he would in his own home.

So Ralph Iannuzzi, owner of the Wine Vault of the Desert, invites me over to meet him at Sammy’ Place to get a start on some particular dishes and check out the scene.  Immediately upon entering, right around 7pm, we see the dining room almost filled and we recognize already a few of our foodie and wine friends enjoying dinner; as we said, Sammy G definitely has a following.  And as the word gets out about this new venue, it already appears that it’s on the radar for this up-coming season.

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So we’ll certainly be back to cover a more established Sammy’s Place, as the menu and wine list will continue to evolve.  Right now, we’re simply thrilled to be raising awareness.  For starters, the wine menu carries a bright and intelligent selection.  House wine includes the four popular Chard, Pinot Grige, Merlot and Cab Sauv., for only $4 a glassNow that’s how to do it! Very reputable Italian Sparklers, Whites, and Reds make up the remaining selection, all available by the glass from only $6 to $9, and, by the bottle—all reasonably priced.  At these wine prices, I can see the wine bar being a leisurely hang-out all on its own.

Now onto the dishes:  The menu is perfect for that intimate dining impression.  Currently there are five appetizers and three salads.  This keeps things fresh and easily approachable.  Sammy is always famous for his tomatoes and they make their enlightening appearance here.  The light and crispy calamari fritti is on the menu, but, when the dish was delivered to the table, surprisingly, it was calamari stuffed with Dungeness Crab—no complaints here.  We like how Executive Chef Scott Robertson keeps it adaptable, accommodating and inventively tasty.

With the smaller and selective dinner menu, all of the dishes are made fresh to order.  Every entrée we tried was delicious—and be warned, the portions are abundant.  Eggplant Parmesan layered with Provolone was fresh and light, nothing like the overly fried stuff one often finds around town.  The Vodka Pasta was a marinara pink sauce with vodka and served with pancetta.  Of course we had to order the venue’s lasagna, and we had the Catch of the Day—always featuring the day’s fresh fish.  Tonight was  Sand Dabs served in a lemon piccatta style sauce.  Delish!  Stop by with hellos and hugs to Sammy G.

Now Frank Sinatra’s persona has always remained here in Palm Springs.  He is forever the mayor, its poet laureate, and he continues to graciously look down upon us as the “Chairman of the Board” while we celebrate his memory with crystal clean dry martinis or with his personal favorite, Jack Daniels’ Gentlemen Jack on the RocksDecember 12 will mark Frank Sinatra’s 100th birthday and all types of celebrations are happening throughout our town for this momentous milestone event.  Our town served as the legendary crooner’s second home for nearly 50 years, so this party is on—time to start spreading the news.

All over the place, there will be Rat-Pack inspired parties, dinners, cocktail fests—you name it, taking part in doing it up “his way”.

For certain, Johnny Costa’s Italian Ristorante, 440 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, CA 92262 (760) 325-4556 will be the ticket where we can indeed enjoy Sinatra’s favorite steak preparation while meeting and greeting Chef Emeritus, Johnny Costa, who served as Frank’s personal chef back in the day.  If you’ve never been there—goodness, treat yourself to the iconic Palm Springs restaurant that reeks of that 50s and 60s elegance and Rat-Pack charm.

Smack on the 12th of December, one of the most dynamic Sinatra inspired crooners around, Steve DiTullio, will be performing at the Pinzimini Ristorante, located in the Westin Mission Hills Resort & Spa in Rancho Mirage (760)770.2150.  I’ve caught Pisano Steve before, where he blew the roof off the Miramonte Hotel at a Beaujolais Nouveau tasting party with some rousing renditions of Sinatra, Dean Martin, and that whole crew.  I think reservations for that dinner party will go fast, so it’s best to get on that quick!

And speaking of the Mission Hills Westin, it’s Jazz & Wine on the Lawn with the jazz concert series, Grooves at the Westin.  Call the resort or go online to find the great musical line up and dates.  www.westinmissionhills.com/Grooves

Saluti! e alla bella vita!

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