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By Henri Migala, East County Eater

Photos by Henri Migala, Miriam Raftery and Sammy’s

November 27, 2021 (La Mesa) -- Having been reviewing restaurants in East County for nearly two years now I have been reporting that East County has become the new gastronomic center of San Diego.

Nowhere is this more evident than the recently renovated Sammy’s Food + Wine in La Mesa. With a full and varied menu that reflects the international background of founder Sammy Ladeki and the rich multicultural nature of our eclectic East County community, Sammy’s offers something for everyone.

East County Magazine Editor Miriam Raftery and I had a chance to visit with Sammy Ladeki, founder of Sammy’s, corporate chef “Alfie” Szeprethy from Hungary and others from the Sammy enterprise treated Miriam and me to an assortment of new dishes available at Sammy’s at their location off Fletcher Parkway in La Mesa.


Sammy Ladeki has a fascinating background. Born in Beirut, Lebanon, he left his home when he was 20 for Germany to study hotel management in Gmund am Tegernsee, near Munich. He went to work at the Westbury Hotel in London, where he was recruited by the Sonesta resort chain, which assigned him to the Royal Sonesta Hotel in New Orleans’ French Quarter. Sixteen people applied and Sammy was one of only three who were accepted. There other two were an Israeli and an Egyptian.

That was in 1968 and shortly after, in 1969, he was drafted to serve in the US armed forces.

Ladeki then worked around the world with various hotels. “Basically, my background is hotels,” he said. “I’ve opened so many restaurants, and nigh clubs, and discotheques. I thought, I want to do something on my own.”

“I had to do something on my own because I didn’t have any money. If I did something simple,” recalled Ladecki, “I don’t need to hire a French chef, or a German chef. So, I opened a pizza place, on June 15, 1989.”

It’s the American dream story.  There are now 18 Sammy’s locations in California and Nevada, although at one time, there were also branches in Japan and Qatar.

Sammy’s in La Mesa

The first thing you notice as you walk up to Sammy’s in La Mesa is that the entire front of the restaurant is now open to the outside. Large garage door-type walls pull up to open the entire front of the restaurant to the outside, creating a brighter, lighter sense. Trees and plants placed along the entire front helps create an open, garden feel while dining.

You also notice the simpler, new name; Sammy’s. It’s no longer Sammy’s Woodfire Pizza. The reason is because the menu offers so much more than just delicious pizza. “We are for all occasions and for all seasons,” said Ledecki.

There are new pitas, new hummus flavors including cauliflower and artichoke hummus and new baguette sandwiches. There are soups, salads, and selections “from the land” (such as lamb chops, oak roasted chicken breasts, and wagyu cheeseburgers) and “from the sea,” (including oak roasted sea bass and trout). There are pastas, and of course, there are the signature pizzas which made Sammy’s famous and loved throughout San Diego.

Wanting to know and try what was different, we were treated to a king’s spread of artichoke and labni hummus, mushroom orzita, goat cheese pizza, mini burgers with gorgonzola and cheddar, flat breads with pizza-type topping, French fries covered with the most savory seasoning, mini duck tacos (made with duck tenderloins), and a Cobb salad (called Bob’s salad because it was invented by Bob Cobb).

Without exaggerating, each plate was excellent and each subsequent plate was even more delicious than the one before. The only word I could use to describe the food is exquisite. I would probably not have ordered the goat cheese pizza, no my usual preference, but I’m grateful we tried it. I think Sammy’s goat cheese pizza is the best pizza I have ever eaten anywhere. Everything about it was perfect. But so was the mushroom orzita and the mini duck tacos.

And, thinking the experience could not be any better, we were treated to a mountain of bright and light cotton candy (which I haven’t had in about 40 years) and Sammy’s iconic desert, the Messy Sundae – a large and tall glass of vanilla ice cream, covered with an overflowing flood of caramel and chocolate syrup and topped with whipped cream. It’s the desert that all deserts aspire to be!

Sammy’s in the Community

Sammy’s not only offers an unsurpassed culinary experience, but they are also committed to serving the community.

Throughout the COVID epidemic, each Sammy’s supported a local hospital near them. The Sammy’s in La Mesa provided about 1,000 food donations/week to front line workers at Grossmont Hospital.

Sammy’s is providing free pizza for a year to the couple who lost their home in the recent plane crash in Santee. Their “Reading is Rewarding” program rewards any child who reads a certain number of books with a “Messy Sunday,” Sammy’s iconic desert.

The Sammy’s corporate office grants at least 10 donations each day.

A Restaurant for All Occasions

There really is no reason to leave East County if you’re looking for a delightful eating experience. Sammy’s is casual enough to be a perfect place for a delightful lunch, whether it’s for business or pleasure, elegant enough for a first date or an anniversary, and even fun enough for a family birthday with children.

Sammy’s has daily happy hour from 3-6 p.m. (including Saturdays and Sundays), including half off “shareables” (appetizers) and $2 off beer and glasses of wine, plus 50% off bottles of wine on Wednesdays.

Treat yourself and your loved one(s) to a delightful lunch or dinner experience by visiting Sammy’s in La Mesa.

For more information about Sammy’s in La Mesa, visit


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