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Guest: Sammy's Woodfired Pizza
Sammy's Woodfired Pizza & Grill Comes to Los Angeles
Story and photos by Mary McGrath

'm always excited to hear about new arrivals to any dining scene, and when I got wind of one of San Diego's finest coming to El Segundo, I was anxious to give it ago.

I wasn't familiar with Sammy's Woodfired Pizza & Grill, already with 17 locations throughout California and Nevada, but I'm a big fan now.

Sami Ladeki, owner of Sammy's Woodfired Pizza & Grill
Sami Ladeki

Owner Sami Ladeki is known in the industry as an "idea man" conceptualizing something and then bringing it to fruition. His company, La Jolla based Ladeki Restaurant Group, was founded in 1989, and includes winners like a pizza chain, a noodle bar and a variety of upscale eateries as well. In meeting him, I was struck by his style, panache and sense of purpose.

Ladeki is an elegant man, and his worldly finesse permeates the wide range of items on the menu. Inside, you'll find a variety of woodfired pizzas, salads, entrees, tapas, desserts, and everything in between. A big hooray for those items that are organic and gluten-free.

This is a fun place, full of activity and conviviality. It's family friendly, yet the food is interesting enough to appease discriminating diners as well. There's a nice global fusion to the food with enough twists and turns to keep my two dining companions and me endlessly enthused.

two of the starters at Sammy's Woodfired Pizza & Grill: Chicken Lettuce Cups and Polynesian Crab Stack
Chicken Lettuce Cups and Polynesian Crab Stack

Our starters included their Polynesian Crab Stack ($13) easily enough for three people to share, with its cylindrical rainbow of mango, pea shoots, crab, organic cucumber, tomato, red onion, avocado, and peanuts, all laced with a spicy ginger lime dressing. Voila!

We also enjoyed their Chicken Lettuce Cups ($10) mixed with a medley of scallions, water chestnuts, and a black bean hoisin sauce. I liked these lettuce cups even better than the ones served at PF Changs, a nearby popular Chinese restaurant chain. Both tapas were delightful, and certainly curbed our appetites until the main courses arrived.

Salmon lover that I am, I was very impressed with their Oak Roasted Salmon Filet ($15), coupled with a frisee salad, cucumber, edamame and ponzu sauce. I was feeling oh-so-healthy with each bite, and the presentation was a visual treat as well.

the Oak-roasted Salmon Filet at Sammy's
Oak Roasted Salmon Filet

My pal ordered their one of their Neapolitan pizzas. The Tuscan ($12), which came with prosciutto, artichoke, kalamata olives, fresh mozzarella, homemade tomato sauce and topped with organic arugula and extra virgin olive oil. Again, this was a very healthy menu item, and went over well at our table.

the Tuscan Pizza, a Neapolitan pizza at Sammy's
Tuscan Pizza

the Ahi Tartare & Avocado at Sammy's
Ahi Tartare

Another winner was the Ahi Tartare & Avocado, ($15) with organic frisee, organic spinach, red onion, edamame, roasted red bell pepper and ginger dressing. I didn't sample it, but I did put it on my list to try the next time I visit.

For dessert, we received a huge hive of pink cotton candy ($4.50), dusted with chocolate. It took me way back to my grammar school days. Kids will love it!

Other items that looked promising:

Crispy Hawaiian Ono Tacos Creamy tomato-cilantro dressing, lime, guacamole, salsa, flour or corn tortillas ($10)

Thai Steak Watercress, romaine, tomato, organic cucumber, mint, Thai basil, crispy shallots, peanuts, Chili-Lime dressing ($11)

Tabouli & Quinoa Organic cucumber, parsley, mint, red onion, tomato, carrot, lemon juice, evoo, romaine ($10)

Mongolian Shredded Duck Quesadilla Spicy Asian guacamole ($11)

Grilled Lamb Chops Marinated in fresh organic herbs, with roasted fingerling potatoes, green beans sautéed with mushroom & roasted garlic ($18)

Wok'd Shrimp Lo Mein Roasted garlic, organic spinach, wild mushrooms ($15)

8 oz. Grilled London Broil Marinated in fresh organic herbs, with roasted fingerling potatoes, sautéed green beans, mushroom, roasted garlic ($15)

Apple Empanadas Hot, crisp apple filled turnovers sprinkled with cinnamon & sugar, served with caramel sauce ($7.5) - With vanilla ice cream (+$2)

With such a varied menu, it's no wonder the accolades surrounding this chain are commendable. Take a look:

World's Top Restaurants-Zagat Survey

Top 5 Most Popular San Diego Restaurants-Zagat Survey

Gold Medallion Award, Best in Class (Pizza)-California Restaurant Association

Best Pizza-San Diego Magazine

I like this place. Almost everything on the menu is under $15, and this economy, that's a winning combination. Couple this with the free parking and adjacency to Borders and Whole Foods, and you can see that this place is destined for success.

inside Sammy's Woodfired Pizza & Grill
Inside the restaurant

Sammy's Woodfired Pizza & Grill
780 South Sepulveda Blvd. (Near Borders at Plaza El Segundo)
El Segundo, CA. 90245
(310) 335-9999

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I enjoy your newsletters -and particularly Patti Nickell's article about the 'Pudding Club' in the Cotswold's. An old friend of mine is taking a holiday there this year and plans to try their Jam Roly Poly and Spotted Dick - amongst many!

--- John & Maggie - UK


The way I read this article, you stayed at the "Breeze and Waves". Do you have any pictures of the cottages, and would you recommend to some first time visitors to Caramoan?

--- Richard Simons, Stockton, CA

Hi Richard,

Breeze and Waves was still under construction when I stayed there in Feb. 2010. It should be finished by now. You can see pictures of the resort on this page. We got to stay in one of the small cottages in the picture. I'll recommend it to budget travelers but you might want to look at other options. We chose it because of its location right by the beach. You can try other resorts in the Caramoan town proper (you have to get a ride to get to the beach and the jump-off point to go island-hopping but it's a relatively short distance). There are also two higher end resorts located on a cove and very near the islands: Gota Village Resort (unfortunately there is something wrong with their website right now) and its twin resort Hunongan Cove. Caramoan is a relatively new tourism development so resorts are just now being built.

You can go to this site for a good list of choices for accommodations in Caramoan.

I should add that it might be good to go to Caramoan (and almost anywhere in the Philippines) during the dry season from December to May. June to November are the typhoon months and sometimes typhoons will still come during early December.


* * * * *

Hi, I'm planning to go to Caramoan this coming May. Would you know the number of Breeze and Waves Cottages? Thanks!

--- Ann, Manila, Philippines

Hi Ann,

Breeze and Waves' phone number is 0908-2911072. Look for Freddie. Hope you have a grand time at Caramoan!



For Nature's Playground: The South Island of New Zealand

Hi Wendy,

In winter, Heritage Heights Apts. now offers free shuttle service to and from Queenstown 24/7 to guests without cars. We own a 7-passenger 4-wd Toyota Highlander used specifically to taxi guests up and down the hill during winter months. We also run advance purchase winter promotions which include a 4-wd rental.

If any of your readers head over this direction, I will enjoy extending Heritage Heights hospitality!!


--- Ailey, Owner, Queenstown, NZ

* * * * *

New Zealand text and pix top drawer! Almost as good as making the trip. ( but one still wants to. . . ) Full of useful detail. Only trouble with the website: It's tough figuring out which feedback goes with which article, and the more there are, the tougher it gets!

--- Ken W., Camarillo CA

Thanks Ken..."álmost" is right, you really have to experience the South Island firsthand. Granted this piece is long, but still all I can think about is how much I left out! I agree abut the relevancy factor re the feedback--it can be confusing...sometimes I have a "Wait a minute...what?" moment myself.

Thanks for writing,


* * * * *

Okay Wendy, from now on whenever you book your travel, please reserve space for me. I will carry your luggage, bring you cold drinks, massage your shoulders, and change the film in your camera (oops, I guess you don't have to do that anymore). Wonderful ideas and recommendations. Can you get to New Zealand from Boston in less than a week?

--- Carl A., South Easton, MA

Ha ha ha Carl, you're quite the comedian! But you'd be surprised how short that flight feels. I suspect Qantas isn't the only airline who's figured out that 3 movies, 2 full meals, lots of snacks and a complimentary travel pack (eye mask, warm socks and neck pillow) equals a quiet, well-behaved cabin. It really isn't bad. Just fly direct--pick the shortest flight w/ no lengthy layovers and you'll be fine. Re: signing on as my Super Sherpa...why not? I think you know I seldom travel in anything less than Party mode. There's just that pesky background check...

Thanks for writing,


For Excellence Riviera Cancun:

Wendy, I truly enjoyed your info especially since we leave in a week to celebrate my 50th Birthday. Was it necessary to make reservations at the restaurants? Was there a dress code for the restaurants? What would you recommend not missing while there? Was the spa experience worth it? Did you travel away from the resort while there? Thanks,

--- Kim P. Fuquay, Varina, NC

Hi Kim.

Sorry for the delay in had heavy competition with the holidays. Reservations at Excellence restaurants are not necessary and you will not find a wait. The dress code is basically no bathing suits and flip-flops...with a decided a mix of atmospheres. Mostly the open-air beachside spots are super casual, the rest slightly more formal. Truly, as long as you are clothed, I don't think you'd be turned away anywhere, though most people seemed to enjoy dressing up at night...I suspect more for their own pleasure than any sense of decorum.

The spa experience was worth it, though my favorite part wasn't the actual massage. The precursor was a 45 min. or so rotation from sauna to a series of (kind of wild) water jets which was very different and very cool, not just for women. In its' entirety, and with the serenity of the beach/champagne/strawberries, it was memorable.

We did not travel away from the hotel this trip, but the hotel is very helpful in arranging day excursions to fit your desires and you do not have to book these until you arrive.

Have a great time!

--- Wendy


I enjoyed Nino's contribution, since we all read about the frightening terrorist attack. Having travelled somewhat through India years ago, I am continually impressed with this country and the gentle spiritual aspects of this nation. Some day I look forward to going back. Nino has encouraged me. Thank you!

--- Yoka Y., Westlake Village, CA


Dear Mr.s/counselors Brown and Koro,

Thank you for a very informed and succinct article on motorcycle accidents and the law. It inspired me to think about getting a motorcycle, but not have an accident. But, if I do I am now well informed with the basics of what to do providing I do not perish in the accident. Any tips about that too?

--- Unnamed

Dear Rush and Chuck,

I wish I had read your article before our camping trip the Friday prior to President's Day.

My wife and I were in a car accident on our way to a camp ground. We were "rear-ended" and the impact caused our car to crash into the car in front of us. The contents of the truck that we were riding scattered onto several lanes. It's a miracle our two dogs decided to stay inside the car. My wife and I were shaken up badly but despite the mess, I was still able to walk out of the car. I got the license plate of the driver in front of me but, to my surprise, after reviewing the little damage on his car, he then sped off. I didn't know you could do that! The driver who hit me from behind gave me his information and then he too left the scene without saying good 'bye. When the police arrived all I had to go by was the little information I had jotted down which I hope was truthful. What if it was bogus? What if I had written the plate number incorrectly? How would that affect my insurance? What if we were unconscious, who would have written down all that information?

I do have one suggestion if you are injured in an accident. The police asked if my wife wanted an ambulance to bring her to the hospital but we declined the offer. I remembered when I rode an ambulance years ago that it was not a comfortable ride. I was strapped to the stretcher and there were all sorts of medical equipment dangling noisily above me. As long as you are able, it is a more relaxful ride inside a car. Besides, isn't there a fee for ambulance service?

--- Dave S. of Pasadena, CA

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