5 to Try: Meatballs

Woe is the child who had the terrible misfortune to cry "on top of spaghetti, all covered with cheese, I lost my poor meatball when somebody sneezed". The child must not have lived in Philadelphia because any kid who grows up here knows that there is never just one meatball on top of spaghetti. What kind of Italian heritage could we claim if we were ever tempted to be so stingy with our meatballs? I mean, Mama mia! So please, if you're eating meatballs in a distant city, heed the kid's advice by holding on to your meatball and not ever sneezing. If you're here, sneeze away. There are plenty more where those came from.

Updated: October 30, 2009

5 to Try

Villa Di Roma Restaurant

936 S 9th St, Philadelphia, PA 19147

This 50-year-old Italian Market stalwart is famous for its meatballs, just as it's beloved for its homemade spaghetti. The owner churns out 400-500 of the light and fluffy spheres each week--frying the all-beef patties until the crust is brown and the interior is tender. He then plops them into gravy and on onto your plate.

Da Vinci Ristorante

1533 South 11th st, Philadelphia, PA 19147

This old-school South Philly restaurant boasts about its meatball dishes, which can be customized to your liking. For instance, the meatballs are typically fashioned on-premise from a combination of beef, veal and pork. But if you don't eat either veal or pork or beef, you can order them without the offending animal flesh. Similarly, they're usually served as a side dish with sausage. But you say you?d rather order them as an appetizer? Or on pasta with ragu sauce? Ask and ye shall receive.

Criniti Restaurant

2611 S Broad St, Philadelphia, PA 19148

On top of ravioli, all covered ? Wait, that's not spaghetti! That's right, at this romantic 'red-gravy Italian? place, meatballs are just as happy decorating the tops of ravioli or cavatelli as the long, thin pasta strings favored by decades of American children. Or, if you prefer your meatballs naked, you can order a side dish that comes with two balls, gravy optional.

Lucky 13 Pub

1820 S. 13th St., Philadelphia, PA 19148

Yes, Lucky 13 is in South Philly but this hipster beer bar offers a non-Italian twist on the old classic. Because hipster bars seem to enjoy the idea of picking apart their food these days, this menu offers not meatballs but ?Deconstructed Meatballs,? where it's not so much the meatballs that are deconstructed but, rather, the sandwich that ordinarily features the beef balls. In other words, an order of Deconstructed Meatballs arrives as a bowl of the featured circles alongside a plate of toasted bread all covered in cheese. Like we said, this isn't an Italian joint so be careful not to sneeze.

Pho 75

1122 Washington Ave # F, Philadelphia, PA 19147

In Vietnamese, Bo Vein means meatballs and at this South Philadelphia Asian soup joint, the meatballs are beef and come one way: in rice-noodle soup. But as with many pho restaurants, although you can't customize your order, you can customize the flavor by adding as much or as little of the accompanying fresh basil, hot pepper and lemon as you wish. And we don't know if we should tell you this, but in Vietnam, no part of an animal goes wasted, meaning that although we know the meatballs here are all beef, we don't care to speculate on exactly what part of the cow is ground up inside.