Friends and relatives had been urging Sam Curreri, owner of Sammy’s Trattoria in Mt. Vernon, to open a suburban location for a while. So, last year when a spot became available at Hunt Valley Towne Centre, Curreri grabbed the opportunity—and he hasn’t looked back since. The crowds flowing into the restaurant each day are an affirmation that he made the right decision. “We had no idea what was coming,” he says.
We stopped by the restaurant on a Wednesday evening without reservations and were lucky to score two seats in the dining room. We don’t recommend going unannounced. Just about every one of the roughly 100 seats in the bar and 100 places in the dining area were taken.
The menu items, mostly traditional Italian staples prepared with evident care, are named after a who’s who of Curreri’s relatives and acquaintances, with nods to several local judges who frequented the downtown restaurant he opened in 2006. I don’t know retired Judge Kathleen Sweeney, but I’m a great fan of the Bolognese dish that bears her name. The mix of ground veal and boar in a tomato-based sauce over pappardelle is a great representation of the Italian ragu.
Before we even got to the main dishes, though, we started our meal with two terrific, oversized meatballs perched on a puddle of ricotta laced with Gorgonzola cheese and a Julia salad (named in honor of a customer’s mother), dense with romaine, cherry tomatoes, and pepperoncini, and glistening with a creamy Italian dressing. We also were wowed by the veal involtini entree. Similar to a roulade, the tender meat encased a savory filling of tomatoes, provolone, spinach, and prosciutto, bathed in a silky Marsala sauce bobbing with chunky mushrooms. The crusty bread served at the beginning of the meal turned out to be a great vehicle for mopping up the juices.
Curreri spent eight months renovating the 6,600-square-foot space, creating a bar area separated from the dining room by wine walls stacked with bottles, an idea he gleaned from Architectural Digest. He also installed wood paneling and subway tiles and redid the kitchen. The white-cloth-covered tables, set with deep-red napkins, are finishing touches.
To end, the excellent house-made cannoli is large enough for two people to share. The crackly pastry shell exploded with creamy, whipped ricotta studded with mini chocolate chips, adding just the right sweet notes.
As fans of Sammy’s in the city for a long time, we’re more than confident its county cousin is going to do just fine. As for those friends and relatives urging Curreri to open in the ’burbs? The people of Hunt Valley owe them a hearty thank-you.
SAMMY’S TRATTORIA II 118 Shawan Road, Hunt Valley, 443-318-4256. HOURS: Mon.-Tues. 4-9 p.m.; Wed.-Thurs., Sun. 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. PRICES: Appetizers: $9-18; entrees: $17-43; desserts: $6.