Cathie Anderson

Cathie Anderson: SoCal restaurateur finally gets to try his luck in Sacramento market

Restaurateur Sami Ladeki has waited seven years for the chance to expand his chain of Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza eateries to the Sacramento region.

His Ladeki Restaurant Group operates 22 casual dining spots in Nevada and Southern California. In 1989, his original Sammy’s restaurant opened in La Jolla, where he met father-and-son team Rodney and Ryan Stone. As reported here in May, the Stones and their partners are behind Stones Gambling Hall, 6510 Antelope Road in Citrus Heights. When they asked Ladeki to run the restaurant and bar in their establishment, he jumped at the opportunity.

“We came here in 2007, before the financial crisis started,” Ladeki. “We had three locations we were looking at….Then when the crisis happened, no one was building.”

At Sammy Restaurant + Bar in the Stones Gambling Hall, diners will find a lot more than pizza. Ladeki’s corporate chef, Jeff Moogk, is baking lamb shanks overnight for 10 hours at 350 degrees and adding spiced lentils. He’s chopping up baby kale, plumping figs, toasting a Bronx cracker, crumbling feta and then tossing everything together with a pomegranate dressing. He’s also tempting diners to play with their food with items like the “Hot Rock,” where diners can saute strips of choice New York-cut steak on a well-scrubbed river rock, heated to 800 degrees. Trained at the Culinary Institute of America, Moogk has been working with Ladeki for 18 years.

The restaurant and bar opened July 1, but the official grand opening will be Friday. By the way, one of the Stones’ minority partners is a familiar face in Sacramento: UFC fighter Urijah Faber.