I recently took my big Des Moines dealer and his wife out for dinner at a great little place called Sam and Gabe's Italian Bistro in the Des Moines suburb of Urbandale (see map). They said it was one of their favorite restaurants and I said that sounded good enough to me.
Sam and Gabe's was started in 1996 by the brother and sister team of Jerry and Julia Talerico (right). The Talerico family has been involved in the restaurant business in the Des Moines area since the late 30's. Their father, Vic, owned Vic's Tally Ho Club, a very popular supper club located not far from where Sam and Gabe's is today. Jerry and Julia both worked in their father's restaurant when they were younger.
The original Sam and Gabe's opened in the former location of Raul's westside location in West Des Moines when Raul's moved to a newer and bigger location. The Talerico's moved into their current location four years ago. Considering where they were before - the old Raul's location was sort of hidden in an industrial strip mall - the move was a definite step up in digs.
The main dining room is heavy with dark wood paneling and it kind of has a supper club feel to the place. There's a nice bar area to wait in when the place gets full. And that happens quite frequently - our wait on a Tuesday night was about 30 minutes.
And the wait was worth it. We started off with a great appetizer - Italian Nachos. They were like regular Mexican nachos, but they topped them with Italian sausage, banana peppers, asiago cheese, their white sauce and baked in the oven for about 10 minutes. They were out of this world, but very, very rich.
They had a pretty good wine list, except the first wine that I ordered - the 2001 Franciscan cabernet - they were out of. So I decided to step up to the more expensive 2001 Silver Oak cabernet. It was a great choice.
Their dinner menu was widely varied. You could choose between beef, pork or chicken dishes. They also had a variety of pasta dishes, as well as fish entrees. Seriously, it was tough to choose.
For dinner, both my dealer and I went with the Chicken Asiago - two small chicken breasts, breaded and sauteed in olive oil, then topped with either a red sauce or a white sauce (or both - that's the direction I went), and topped with Asiago cheese. My dealer's wife got the baked salmon, topped with a cream caper sauce.
The bottom line - my dinner was outstanding. But, oh! So rich! I couldn't finish my dinner, it was so rich. (I suppose eating the Italian nachos before dinner didn't help either.) The chicken was cooked perfectly and the combination of the red marinara sauce and the white cream sauce topped with the asiago cheese was a pleasantly surprising great tasting blend.
My dealer's wife raved about her salmon. It did look great, as well, topped with that cream and caper sauce.
For dessert, they had a tempting lemon mousse cheesecake (two of my favorite things in life - lemon and cheesecake). They also had tiramisu, a white chocolate bread pudding and an espresso chocolate tort. I was so stuffed that even the lemon mousse cheesecake couldn't get me to jump on that. But my dealer's wife had to have the creme brulee. She said it was one of the best she'd ever had.
So, she ordered that with three spoons. I protested, saying that there was NO WAY I could even take a bite, I was ready to burst. When the waitress brought out the creme brulee it was too tempting. I had to have a bite. And it was good. I don't know if it was the best I'd ever had, but it was very good. Oh, but so rich, again!
Our waitress was pretty good, although she did sort of forget about us after she served us our Italian nachos. It was about a 20 minute interval from the time we finished our nachos to the time we finally ordered our entrees. But it was very busy that night so I understood that. But she could have stopped briefly to check on us - she didn't even do that.
Sam and Gabe's has a small area in a lower area of the restaurant for a lunch time crowd. Their lunch menu consists mainly of salads, sandwiches and some pastas. The lower area room is not open for dinner, but it used for parties and receptions during the evening.
Most of Sam and Gabe's entrees are moderately priced, but with the Silver Oaks bottle of wine our bill with tip went over $200 bucks. But my dealer does a lot of business with our company, so it was well worth the price.
I would definitely eat at Sam and Gabe's again...