Sam and Gabe’s Fine Italian Bistro is a great place to relax and enjoy a great Italian meal with friends and family. Sam and Gabe’s offers a slightly different departure from other Des Moines Italian restaurants. First, it offers northern Italian cuisine (as opposed to Calabrese). Second, the lights are dim and there is usually live music. White table cloths give it an upscale finish.
Although Sam and Gabe’s is a second generation Italian restaurant, it is a refreshing reboot of the northern Italian cuisine with a nod to the legacy of Vic’s Tally Ho restaurant which was formerly at 56th and Douglas. Vic Talerico was the father of Jerry and Julia Talerico, the hosts of Sam and Gabe’s. What sets Sam and Gabe’s apart from the other restaurants, and even other restaurants featuring Italian cuisine, is the supper club approach to the dining experience. The traditional supper club has pretty much vanished from the Des Moines restaurant scene, but it is alive and well at Sam and Gabe’s. It is not just a white table cloth dining experience (itself somewhat rare feature among Des Moines’ Italian restaurants) but it offers a solid menu of musical acts to liven up the party. Just checking the upcoming list of musicians finds Sam Salamone, Fred Gazzo and his band, and the John Krantz Trio — some easy-to-listen-to local jazz musicians. Another feature is that the layout of the restaurant can provide a quieter atmosphere for dining if that is what you want. Just ask to be seated on the north end, which is fairly distant from the south end where the music is played and is somewhat cordoned off by open doors.
When we most recently visited the place it was surprisingly full for a Monday night. Several in the restaurant were there when we arrived and were still having fun when we left one and one-half hours later. The waiter was efficient with a very serious demeanor. Orders were all correct, water and tea glasses were promptly refilled and the food all arrived hot and in order. Even for a fairly busy Monday there was plenty of staff. The decor is classy with interesting art work. The lights are low (which makes taking good pics a challenge), perhaps one notch brighter than the really dark atmosphere of, say, Baru 66 (which is cave-like). It was light enough that I could actually see my dinner.
A restaurant is nothing without good food, and Sam and Gabe’s does not disappoint in this department. Several in our dinner party are fairly picky about their food and they raved about the offerings.
I tried the Manicotti al Forno, which is tubular pasta filled with veal, chicken, pork and spinach. It was excellent. I was given a choice of a red or white sauce and took both, split between each half of the dish. The sauces were both very good. The pasta was clearly freshly made and delicious.
The Tortelloni Modenese was also excellent. This dish features homemade cheese and spinach-filled tortelloni, tossed with peas, prosciutto and mushrooms. I tried some of the tortelloni and thought that prosciutto worked well with the cheese and hand-made pasta. The light Marsala wine creme sauce was also tasty without being cloying.
Several in our party chose the Price Fix menu, which included bruschetta, toasted ravioli or provolone. The soup of the day was thick enough that a soup spoon would have no trouble standing straight up for a bit. The seafood cannelloni was probably the hit of the party, which is saying a lot as several in our party were visiting from Florida and eat enough fresh seafood that when they stand up the mercury in their blood turns their toes silver.
Salads all feature home made dressings. I tried the classic Italian and it was very good.
We did not try the wine list and did not have room for any dessert.
Hours and Location
Mon-Sat 5PM – Close
8631 Hickman Road
Urbandale, IA 50322-4323
Sam and Gabes Fine Italian Bistro