My name is Kerry. I’m 26 years old, I’m a native Memphian, and last night was my first time going to Pete & Sam’s.
I know. Shame on me. How, at my age, could I not have tried Pete & Sam’s? The best answer I could come up with is that my mom never took me when I was a kid. Also, the place always looks intimidatingly packed. Plus, it’s the sort of place that people either love or love to be over – I’d heard both that it was the best Italian food in town and that it was way overrated.
Pete & Sam’s is one of those windowless family-run joints that seems to have gotten stuck in whatever year it opened (in this case, that was 56 years ago). It’s constantly Christmas inside Pete & Sam’s, but they decorate for other holidays in spite of the twinkle lights and tree (last night, for example, everything was covered in Halloween cobwebs). The main dining room smells like garlic and melted cheese.
My mom (who, despite never taking me to Pete & Sam’s, goes there all the time) recommended the ravioli, so I ordered it toasted as an appetizer. While it was very good and all crispy and warm, I probably will reconsider ordering an appetizer next time because the dinner menu is kind of insane.
Everything in the “Italian Dinners” section of the menu (mostly pasta dishes) comes with a soup or salad and two sides: baked potato, Italian spinach, a small pizza, ravioli or spaghetti. You can get pasta as a side to your pasta.
I ordered the lasagna with minestrone soup, Italian spinach and salami pizza. The minestrone soup was pretty tasty, but nothing super special. My pizza, which came out between the soup and lasagna, was good, though. The crust is cracker thin, which kept it from being too filling.
My lasagna came out in a huge, oval serving dish that was only slightly smaller than a football. It was a homestyle mess of meat and cheese and sauce. If you have an Italian grandma, this is probably the kind of lasagna she would make for you. The spinach was so rich, creamy and cheesy that there’s no way it actually counts as a vegetable.
I made it about halfway through my lasagna before the mind-reader waitress brought a to-go box for me. She told me that everyone leaves with a to-go box, and I’m sure it wasn’t hyperbole – my dinner was the sort of thing you’d eat if you were training for a marathon or trying to move up a weight class. It’s the kind of cheesy, carb-loaded goodness that sticks to your bones.
Pete & Sam’s is both kid and large crowd friendly. They’re open Sunday – Thursday from 4:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 4:30 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. If you’re planning to go on a weekend night, prepare for a wait – the restaurant is hugely popular.
Pete & Sam’s
3886 Park Avenue,