MEET THE OWNERS
Chef Sam Epps was born in Queens, New York and moved to Ithaca at a young age. Sam started cooking at age 14. He was hired at the well known and highly regarded Italian American restaurant, The Coddington, for the next four years. After graduating high school, Chef Sam attended The French Culinary Institute now known as The International Culinary Center. While attending culinary school, Sam worked nights at Fiamma Osteria under Chef Michael White.
Upon finishing culinary school, Sam moved to Massorosa in Toscana, Italy to study under Chef Sandra Lotti and Chef Christopher Covelli at Toscana Saporita. It was there that Sam learned the traditions and art of Tuscan Cuisine. While in Italy, Sam met celebrity chef and author, Mario Batali.
After coming back to the United States, Sam was offered a job at world renowned Babbo Ristorante (3 stars New York Times, 1 Michelin Star) in Manhattan's Greenwich Village. For the next 2 ½ years Sam worked under executive chef Frank Langello, honing his fine dining skills, while still staying true to the roots of Italian cooking and culture.
While at Babbo Ristorante, Sam met Chef Andy Nusser of Casa Mono and Bar Jamon. Chef Nusser was in the early stages of opening the Tarry Lodge in Port Chester, New York and offered Sam the position of Chef di Cuisine which he stayed at for the next six years.
Sam’s dream was always to move back to Ithaca with his wife Kami Drake to open a restaurant. On March 7, 2014 their son Elias was born and they decided it was time. Gola Osteria is Sam and Kami’s first expression of fine Italian dining utilizing the bounty of the Finger Lakes.
Kami Drake was born and raised in Ithaca, New York. While attending Ithaca College for Health Education, Kami found a job working at Ithaca’s well known and celebrated eatery The Coddington. She worked there for fourteen years, first as a server then as a bartender and eventually a manager.
While working at The Coddington, she met her future husband and business partner, Sam. In 2006, Kami moved to Greenwich, Connecticut where she worked at Beach House Café, tending bar to the many residents of the affluent area. After working at Beach House Café for a year, Kami moved on to work at its sister restaurant Sundown Saloon, a busy bar and restaurant on bustling Greenwich Avenue. She worked there for the next six years. Starting as Assistant General Manager and moved onto Beverage Manager creating cocktail menus.
Kami, along with her husband, always wanted to move back to Ithaca to open a restaurant. On March 7, 2014, she gave birth to the couple’s son Elias Epps and decided it was time to move back and begin the next chapter in her family’s life. Gola Osteria is Sam and Kami’s first expression of fine Italian dining utilizing the bounty of the Finger Lakes.