Diversity in Dining

Photos by Christopher Tierney Photography


Sam & Louie’s Italian Eatery is much more than just pizza


For more than 20 years Sam & Louie’s has been serving up its New York style pizza, which started at a single store in West Omaha. Now with 16 locations across six states throughout the Midwest, the family-owned restaurant knows how to make a good pie. But the depth of its menu goes far beyond pizza and pasta. Sam & Louie’s caters corporate events, weddings, and graduations to meet any budget and taste. But it’s all being done with the same family-friendly approach as when the Nolan family first started the franchise.

After working in the pizza industry throughout high school and college, Melissa Nolan decided owning her own restaurant was her passion. Her father, Greg Nolan, who had worked for Electrolux in Omaha for 17 years, was ready for a career change at the same time. So when Melissa came home from college and announced she wanted to open a pizza place, Greg and his wife Nancy agreed. “I was never concerned with whether or not it would work,” he said. “I had the confidence it would.”

Coming up with a name for the restaurant was a little more challenging. Greg’s criteria were that it had to be meaningful to the family and was easy to spell. One day the name finally hit him: Sam & Louie’s, named after his and Nancy’s fathers. They opened their first location at 120th & Blondo Streets, which had to be expanded within the first week to accommodate the explosion of customers. They now operate three stores in Omaha, and Michael Nolan, Greg and Nancy’s son, oversees Sam & Louie’s national franchising operations. Many friends have worked at the restaurants along the way, and now Melissa’s two daughters are on board as well.

The Nolan’s initially started with pizza, calzones, strombolis, pastas, and hoagies, and have expanded their menu to include burgers, sandwiches, salads, and more. Sam & Louie’s has also been offering gluten free pizza for more than 10 years. Melissa, who is gluten intolerant, wanted a pizza crust that tasted better than what was available in stores, and now every topping they offer is gluten free, including their popular homemade Italian salad dressing.

In the last year Sam & Louie’s has focused heavily on its catering business, led by marketing outreach coordinator Leah Parodi. They are able to offer everything from pizzas to prime rib. “We have large commercial kitchens and chefs who are able to do plated beef tenderloin dinners for 200 people,” Leah said. “But we often do it more cost effectively than some of the larger caterers.”

Homemade pastas include chicken and sausage tortellini, creamy pesto cavatappi, and homemade lasagna. Platters of antipasto skewers, stuffed calzones, and buffalo wings are also available. They even offer breakfast strombolis that are filled with eggs, cheddar, choice of meat and vegetables and served with salsa on the side. “We have options for $10 per person or $50 per person, and everything in between,” Leah added.

Every aspect of their business is done with families in mind, including their franchises. Michael explained that franchising actually started by accident. “We had a few requests from people to start one, so we helped them,” he said. Now they have a formalized process in place but want to ensure owners have the same philosophy as they do. “We have a family friendly atmosphere at our restaurants and at every event we cater,” Melissa added. And after 22 years of working together as a family, the Nolan’s truly want everyone to feel welcome to “gather around our table”.  

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