Sampino’s buys Joe Marty’s with plans to upgrade food at local landmark

Michael Sampino takes the reins at iconic Joe Marty's sports bar

Michael Sampino discusses his plans for remaking the iconic Sacramento sports bar. Current owner Devon Atlee says Sampino is a good fit.
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Michael Sampino discusses his plans for remaking the iconic Sacramento sports bar. Current owner Devon Atlee says Sampino is a good fit.

Michael Sampino, who turned Sampino’s Towne Foods into a destination for local foodies, announced Friday that he has purchased Joe Marty’s, the iconic Sacramento bar on Broadway next to the Tower Cafe.

Sampino said he will keep the sports bar’s history and sense of place that are important to so many local sports fans and bar-goers, while seriously upgrading the menu from its current fare.

“I want to give something back to Land Park,” Sampino said. “I’ve always been proud to live in Land Park. I went to school here, served Mass here. I like the fact that Vic’s (Ice Cream) is what it is for Land Park, Taylor’s (Market) is what it is for Land Park, Tower Cafe. I want to put Sampino’s next to these businesses and maybe one day be a staple to Land Park for 20, 30 or 40 years.”

The new place, once the ownership change becomes official in the coming weeks, will be called Sampino’s at Joe Marty’s.

“I don’t want to reinvent the wheel. It is what it is. It’s a perfect establishment. I just want to offer good, comforting, affordable, consistent Italian food,” Sampino said.

The current owner, Devon Atlee, a former high school baseball player who loved the rich history and lore of Joe Marty’s, had spent several years acquiring the rights to the name and working to open in the same location, which was ravaged by fire and ultimately shuttered in 2005. All of the photos on the walls are local, including Atlee’s Kennedy High School baseball team from the 1980s. The jerseys on display are from local players who made it to the big leagues.

Atlee, who works in commercial real estate, said he had no intentions to sell the restaurant and bar until Sampino approached him with an offer and explained what he could do to elevate the food. One of the conditions of the sale was that Sampino’s would keep the name Joe Marty’s.

On Friday, with a bustling crowd for lunch, Atlee and Sampino both jumped in to help with the rush. Atlee’s 22-year-old daughter, Madeline, was also on the floor working as a server.

“I’m selling it just because I think it’s the right thing to do and it’s the right time,” said Atlee. “I believe in Michael Sampino as an operator and I think he will only enhance the Joe Marty’s experience and bring more value and more goodwill to the neighborhood.”

Joe Marty was a former major league baseball player who opened the original bar and grill on J Sreet in 1938. He moved the business to the Broadway location in 1951. After he retired from pro baseball in 1952, Marty tended bar for three decades. He died in 1984.

When a fire broke out in the kitchen in 2005, that spelled doom for the popular watering hole. Joe Marty’s sat empty for a decade until Atlee secured a lease on the 2,200-square-foot space, gutted the inside and completely rebuilt the pub.

Referring to the sale, Atlee said, “It’s right for the neighborhood and it feels right, so I’m excited to hand the torch to Michael.”

Blair Anthony Robertson: 916-321-1099, @Blarob