If your name is on the guest list, no one can take you higher. Everybody says I’ve got great balls of fire!
There are some things that strike our palate, bringing with them a barrage of childhood memories that lead us on a lifetime quest to satisfy such cravings. Mine is the meatball. I have traveled far and wide from Rome to New York City, Los Angeles and even Miami in search of the perfect meatball, from the Sicilian kitchen of a lifelong family friend’s home to the apartment of an Irish DJ in search of the perfect ball.
While many came close, none came near the balls I found when I came to Berkeley.
On a Friday night, a local vegetarian friend and I sat at the bar of Little Star Pizza on Solano Ave. in Albany while we waitied for our “Little Star deep dish pie”–a rich blend of spinach mixed with ricotta, feta, mushrooms, onion and garlic with a cornmeal crust–to bake. Here’s pizza for me: by the time you come to the crust you’ve already savored what you really wanted to taste. However, this cornmeal crust is an undercover delight.
Seated at the bar as I enjoyed my red IPA and closely read the menu, I noticed meatballs offered as an appetizer. Our kind bartender, Erika, telepathically sensed my feelings of urgency and offered to bring me just one meatball free of charge to sample. The rest is history. It was fragrant, hot and perfect. As a tasty blend of beef, pork and spices, drenched in a fresh marinara of sweet local tomatoes, garlic and basil melted in my mouth, I did the happy barstool seat dance. While these are standard meatball ingredients, the manner in which they are assembled is magical–so magical that I returned the next weekend specifically for an large order of meatballs.
This sucked because my second order of balls appeared slightly burnt and hidden under their signature sauce; but I just couldn’t give up on their flavor so…
Today, I returned, and my balls were everything! This time I ordered the hot meatball sandwich, which came out oozing with fresh mozzarella cheese on a sourdough roll (toasted to perfection) with more of that sweet, sinuous sauce atop my freshly made beautiful, beautiful balls. Accompanied by a heavenly fresh spring mix tossed with a tantalizingly sweet balsamic vinaigrette.
If I owned this place, I would sell meatballs out front lemonade stand-style. I would dress like a meatball and dance on the corner, make t-shirts bragging, “But we’ve got the biggest balls of them all!” I have found my balls and want to share them with you! Have a ball!
Location: 1175 Solano Ave. Albany, CA 94706
Hours of Operation: Monday-Sunday 11:30 am – 10 pm