As an Italian girl, I was especially happy to hear about the opening of The Portland Meatball Company and have since been there three times, twice for takeout and once for a sit-down with a friend.
Although I had every intention of mixing things up each visit, all three times I followed my heart and ordered the toasted meatball sandwich. And all three times I applauded my wisdom.
Served with Cape Cod-style chips, the meatballs in Toasted Meatball Hero ($8.50) are made with house beef, pork and veal. That third ingredient is one I normally shy away from, but I guess I caved to “when in Rome” thinking and got over my usual aversion. The sandwich is blanketed in provolone, Parmesan cheese and tomato meat sauce, then oven-baked to crispy perfection.
Truth be told, the meatballs are on the small side and there could probably be a couple more of them, but with the chips, it was just enough food. Said meatballs were flavorful without being overwhelming. They aren’t life-changing, but they’re mighty fine and, coupled with how much I love the atmosphere and decor of Portland Meatball Company’s space, I am certain I’ll be back there on the regular.
The space, which was occupied for what seemed like forever by Pierre’s electronics, was given a makeover that’s downright magical. There’s booth seating, bar seating and a spacious island in the center of the room with high-top stools. Someone put significant thought into the layout and did a tremendous job. The restaurant is adorned with retro and kitschy antiques and knick-knacks, which all pull at my heartstrings and make me feel right at home.
My lunch date very much wanted to order the meatball sandwich, but I swayed her to stay away by offering to pick up the tab if she’d venture elsewhere with her order. She took the bait and opted for a bowl of pasta and wrote almost poetic verse about it, which I’m sharing verbatim:
“The small bowl of bucatini pasta with the house meatballs ($9) (beef-veal-pork blend) was the perfect lunch on a cold, rainy November day. The pasta had a perfect al dente bite and the thick meat sauce covered four little meatballs. Each order comes with three meatballs, so it was a pleasant surprise when the fourth meatball appeared under the sauce. My lunch date was kind enough to share a bite of her meatball sub and I was able to use the crispy bread to sop up every last bite of the sauce.”
She added, and I agree, that the space is extremely welcoming and still has a cut-wood smell to it. It also has some large-screen TVs, and I can absolutely picture heading there to watch a football game, if that’s your thing.
As for the other menu items that I’m going to have to work my way through over the next several months, just about the entire hot-pressed sandwich list is calling my name, including the BLT classic, Havana Mama and Mexican chicken melt. They’re served on toasted Pullman white, whole grain or marble rye with chips. A whole one is $9, a half is $5 and, for $9, you can get a half of a sandwich and cup of the daily soup.
For those of you with a sweet tooth, one of the pressed sandwiches is the Nutella Chocolate Delight, which is dark chocolate, Nutella, French Brie and honey. For two bucks more, you can really go to town and add house smoked bacon. Oh my!
The Portland Meatball Co. also offers huge slices of specialty pizza, including pesto, mushroom medley, spicy barbecue chicken and pesto. These range in price from $4.95 to $8. There’s also a tempting range of salads, including a couscous one ($7.95) and a chopped sugar beet ($8.50).
Point being, this place truly has something for every palate. My next visit will definitely not be during working hours because the cocktail menu is also speaking my language. The St. Germain Fizz, Lemon Pear Cooler and old school Rob Roy are all on my to-drink list.
Welcome to the Old Port, Portland Meatball Company. To quote “Casablanca,” “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” Oh, and one more thing, the hours are incredible. Late-night noshers, this could be your new place.
WHERE: 104 Exchange St., Portland, 835-0409. On Facebook
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Thursday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to
1 a.m. Sunday
WAIT: Less than 10 minutes
PARKING: On-street or parking garages within walking distance
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes