1607 F Street, Sacramento, CA 95814. (916) 441-2372.

I know I promised to tell you more about the Foodbuzz Festival and I will, I promise...but we're about to take a teeny tiny diversion today because I want to tell you about Sampino's Friday Night Dinners. Why? Because I'm pretty sure they have healing powers. Really, I think they do. So, ugh, yesterday...yesterday was one of those days where I would have been better off staying in bed all day with the down comforter pulled over my head. Mainly because I felt craptastic. I woke up about 2am from a dead sleep with a migraine that I can best describe as feeling like I was getting the bejesus squeezed outta of my head. Like "curl up in the fetal position-clench your teeth-and squeeze your eyes shut tight" kind of nuclear pain. None of my prescribed migraine medications were working and all I could do was try and ride it out. Unfortunately that didn't come until almost dawn and even then my sleep was minimal. I got about 3 real hours of slumber in before my phone started ringing and the landscapers started leaf blowing outside my window. Time to start the day. Gah! My body ached anytime I moved an inch and my head was pounding (maybe from the barometric pressure drop?), yet somehow simultaneously I felt like I could fall asleep standing up. Have you ever had that feeling? Pain and exhaustion going through you at the same time? I kept taking the migraine meds and drinking cups of coffee and by midday I felt slightly human. Thinking I had to do something productive, I figured I would go to Home Depot and purchase a specialty light bulb I had been meaning to buy. So I rolled off the couch and threw on a fleece and headed out looking like something the cat dragged in. Found the light bulb. Score...check one to-do item off my list. On the way out, I decided to hit up IKEA...giant bad move. I had forgotten it was a holiday, the place was busy. The coffee began to wear off rapidly, the drumming in my head began to increase tenfold. The dishtowels I wanted turned out to only be available as breadbasket liners (really?!!). Nausea was starting to set in. I ran into some people I knew. Trying to exchange polite pleasantries when you feel sick to your stomach is pretty awkward (I guess you could just always puke on them and explain later). Then I couldn't find a catalog anywhere in the lighting department. The drumming was turning into a full blown Riverdance pounding. Okay, maybe getting these errands done wasn't so important after all. I just wanted out of the IKEA labyrinth. Ahhhh, fresh air--gulp!Gulp! So I finally got home and laid this point, I was in a bit of a quandary...I had dinner plans with friends. Dinner plans at a restaurant we booked weeks ago...dinner plans at a restaurant that's full and has been turning people away. What to do? I decided to choke down some more migraine meds, drink some more strong coffee and take a short nap.

Dinner time rolled around, I was still feeling achy and my head was thumping like the bass in a T.I. song but I put on a smile and head over to Sampino's. The place had been transformed from it's usual daytime deli into a small, quaint trattoria and though the eatery was a bit congested (tables and chairs are literally squeezed in there back-to-back), you're greeted with a feeling of friendliness and family when you walk in. Dinner is one seating (6pm), so everyone's arriving all at once. They give you time to exchange hugs and hellos then everyone settles in and gets down to business.  We started out with some fresh baked foccacia and zesty antipasti (assorted olives, pickled vegetables and pepperoncinis).

Once our tastebuds were whetted, we're presented with a delicious zuppa- a Venitian white bean and sausage soup...our table much like the others around us at this point is busy yakking and laughing and that's when I noticed it, my migraine was slowly dissipating and my nausea had all but subsided.

Next for the primi, a slice of timbale is brought out to each of us. As I dug into the multiple layers of pasta, marinara, salami, cheese and other assorted goodies I look up and notice that "The Big Night" is quietly playing on a small TV in the corner...I find myself grinning at the subtle bit of humor.

At this point we're getting pretty full and we haven't even gotten to the main course. We get a brief intermission from stuffing our faces when the large dinner party next to us, whom are celebrating grandma's birthday, perform a toast and have one of their younger guests sing "Happy Birthday" and a song in Italian. At this point it truly feels like we are attending an actual Italian family dinner. (I'm just waiting for a drunk cousin Giovanni to pinch my butt and then it'll be truly authentic!) Next up from the kitchen is is a creamy plate of risotto (tre formaggi and leek)...delicious! My migraine at this point has completely disappeared (possibly because the tightness of the waistband of my pants has cut off the blood supply to my upper body).

The main course (the secondi) is presented then, half of our dinner party has the braised veal shank with roasted vegetables in a red wine reduction, the other half- a garlic and herb marinated snapper on a bed of onions and bell peppers with sauteed asparagus. I take a few bites of my snapper and immediately ask for a box (it's tasty but my stomach's about to explode from food overload).

To cleanse our palates we're given a fresh mixed green insalata tossed with dried cranberries and a vinaigrette (no photo...a side salad's, a side salad folks). The evening concludes with my favorite dish, the dolce--a pumpkin gelato parfait set atop an eggnog custard and glazed with a chocolate ganache. I can attest that pumpkin did not die in vain---that gelato was sheer bliss on my tongue.

Driving home last night I was tired but amazed at how much better I felt...maybe the belly truly does rule the mind and body. After a night of deep sleep and dreams of meatballs and cannolis, I woke with still no migraine or nausea. Of course I'll take it easy (I'm not crazy)...but I really think there's something to that Sampino's place and their hearty Italian fare. ;)

* Friday night dinner $25-$30 pp.
* Reservation only.
* Beverages,Tax & Gratuity not included.
* Sampino policy requires credit card information to hold a reservation, 50% fee will be charged for any no shows.
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