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Not so fast! New customers flood Joe Marty’s, but ownership and food haven’t changed yet

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.

The excitement sparked by news that Michael Sampino and the Sampino’s brand are running the show at Joe Marty’s on Broadway unleashed a flood of new customers over the weekend — but many expressed frustration that the food hadn’t changed yet.

Sampino, who announced Friday that he has purchased the iconic sports bar and Land Park fixture next to Tower Cafe, said Monday that he’s taking some heat on social media about the more traditional sports bar menu. He stressed that the ownership change is a work in progress. He has entered into an agreement to buy the business, but the process takes times. The food created by the owners that re-launched Joe Marty’s 13 months ago will continue for the time being.

Sampino said to expect a revamped menu in the next several weeks.

Joe Marty’s opened in 1938 and closed for a decade after a fire in 2005. Through the years, it has been a beloved local institution, replete with baseball memorabilia.

In the past 17 years, Sampino’s Towne Foods has emerged as a highly touted destination for food lovers. It is best known for its meatball sandwich and other casual Italian fare. Sampino has been working at Joe Marty’s in recent weeks to get a sense of the operation to ease the transition. The Bee reported the Sampino purchase online Friday and in print Saturday.

Fresh from a 17-hour shift at Joe Marty’s on Sunday, a weary Sampino said, “After the article in The Bee, the social media and the telephone just exploded. People are flooding in with anticipation, but I want to reiterate we have not touched the menu.

“People are making comments about the food, but until the ownership transfer, we’re still serving the original owner’s food.”

Sampino said he expects something of a culture clash in the coming weeks, when the bar and grill will become known as Sampino’s at Joe Marty’s and the menu shifts dramatically toward Italian food and away from basic sports bar staples. He embraces local, seasonal ingredients and said some original customers may balk at the prices on the new menu. Already, he said, some regulars are at odds with a new communal table — something that’s now commonplace in midtown — where strangers are often seated at the same large table.

Sampino said a notice of change of ownership is expected to be placed in the window in the next days, and that the actual transfer of ownership will take a few weeks longer.

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

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