Sam’s Italian-American restaurant will close despite having been an Albany neighborhood staple for 50 years
ALBANY— “It’s a shame, man.”
A neighbor across from Sam’s Italian-American restaurant shouted from his front porch. The day before, someone had hung a sign on the front door of the restaurant saying it was closed.
The handwritten sign read: “The restaurant is closed. Thank you for these 50 great years. The same message was recorded on the answering machine inside. The intimate dining room held countless stories. A picture of wrestling great Andre the Giant hung just next to the bar, as did several other celebrities who had visited. But, they haven’t held a candle to all the first dates and family dinners he’s hosted over the years.
“I’ve been enjoying my favorite Italian dishes for over 30 years here,” said Tim Dietz, “and I know my grandparents, Bob and Esther Deitz, will always have their mark [here].”
The Rappoccio family had just celebrated their 50th birthday at the corner of Southern Boulevard and Kehoe Street. According to old neighborhood stories, the family started out selling pizza slices out of their garage.
“It is with heavy hearts that we announce; Sam’s Restaurant has closed,” shared another announcement on Facebook. Carmela Daubney, 73, and her brother Paul Rappoccio, 71, have owned the restaurant since taking it over from their parents, who opened the restaurant in 1971. Both brothers first worked for their parents . “After 50 years of serving first slices then food then drinks to our loyal and endearing customers, we have decided to close.”
The news reached beyond Albany. Former Bethlehem City Supervisor Ken Ringler shared his condolences for the restaurant’s closure on Facebook.
“Carmella, so sorry to hear that,” Ringler said. “Your family’s restaurant is an Albany institution and will be missed! As you know, since Marty and I moved from the area, we have always made Sam a must visit when in town. Best wishes to you and enjoy a well deserved rest.
The owners cited several factors behind their decision, reasons all too familiar with local restaurants struggling to survive since the COVID outbreak. Rising food prices and a depleted workforce forced Daubney and Rappoccio to close.
“We did our best to stick to COVID and uphold our values,” they wrote, “among other issues forced our hand.”
The online post went on to thank their customers, many of whom were regulars whom they have adopted as “a big part of our lives”.
“Some of you have been eating our food since before we were a restaurant and throwing slices at the neighborhood,” they wrote. “Others have had their first date with Sam. Even more have been born and raised on Sam’s food, eating it for as long as they can remember. We thank you all.