A Houston native and hospitality industry veteran, Sam Governale’s story is one of two decades of passion, dedication and achievement. Sam has had a love affair with food and service from an early age, having grown up in a large Italian family that valued tradition and celebrated everyday life with memorable dining experiences. He adds tremendous value as Operating Partner of The Annie drawing on a honed skill-set developed at some of the nation’s top restaurants.
Sam spent seven years in New York City studying under renowned wine and spirits consultant Steve Olsen and Master Sommelier Andrea Immer. Immersing himself in his trade, Sam was selected to the tasting panel for Wine & Spirits Magazine and gleaned knowledge from his travels to Italy, Spain, Germany and France. He spent six years working alongside James Beard-nominated Chef and Restaurateur Matthew Kenney, developing beverage programs for all his concepts, and served as Director of Openings for acclaimed restaurants Monzu, Matthew’s, Canteen, Commune New York, Commissary Maine, Commissary New York and Commune in Atlanta. Sam’s extensive background also spans elite restaurants including Babbo with Chef Mario Batali, 13 Barrow St with Chef John Tesar, Mirezi with Chef Anita Lo and overseeing the development of numerous wine programs across the country as a top-tier sommelier.
In 2002, Sam settled in Atlanta, where he was instrumental in creating over a half a dozen award-winning wine programs for high-profile restaurant concepts. Serving as General Manager and Beverage Director, Sam managed MidCity Cuisine’s impressive, regionally-driven and award-winning wine list (Best Wine List – Critic’s Choice, Creative Loafing and Wine Spectator Award of Excellence). Under his supervision, MidCity Cuisine earned Atlanta Magazine’s “Restaurant of the Year” award and was featured in Gourmet’s Guide to America’s Best Restaurants. During his tenure in Atlanta, he was recognized by the food and wine community as a “top notch sommelier” (ZAGAT Survey), quoted in InStyle Magazine and noted in Food & Wine Magazine. Sam later established a start-up wine consulting firm, WineDoor, acting as a Fine Wine Analyst and Private Collections’ Consultant assisting both collectors and Las Vegas Sommeliers in acquiring fine and rare wines. In addition, he assisted several wineries and winemakers in marketing and evolving their brand’s identity.
In 2009, Sam moved back to Houston to be the Operating Partner of the River Oaks location of Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, where he successfully ran it for seven years. Prior to the launch of The Annie, Sam founded DOCG Interests, LLC, a Houston-based full-service restaurant consulting business for which he serves as Executive Officer, and became an owner and partner of Emmaline, a stylish neighborhood eatery serving modern American & European cuisine. In addition to being Operating Partner at The Annie, Sam will continue his role at Emmaline while continuing to develop and manage new concepts under the DOCG entity.
Before he set off on a career in hospitality, Sam initially studied psychology, philosophy and neurobiology and was published for his work as a protein chemist in a New York University Hospital laboratory focused on Alzheimer’s Disease. It was during this time that Sam honed his philanthropic and altruistic spirit that began with his late father, a renowned local surgeon. Currently, he serves on the board for Candlelighters Children’s Cancer Alliance and the Leukemia Lymphoma Society’s Gulf Coast Chapter. He is also a committeeman (Grand Entry) for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, and in 2014, Sam was the runner-up in raising funds for LLS as a candidate for their Man of the Year Campaign. He regularly competes in Houston’s Iron Sommelier Competition, which benefits The Periwinkle Foundation.
An avid traveler, foodie and sports fan, Sam is also a devoted family man to his lovely wife Tina and their two Shih Tzus.