Every aspect of The Meatball & Wine Bar is comforting.
One of the three current “meatballs”, the Richmond establishment is more than welcome in the area for many reasons. The first time I dined at 105 Swan Street it was Wild Oscar’s and my friends decided it was enjoyable – for a parma eating challenge – and not necessarily for the parma itself. It wasn’t terrible, but we didn’t go back and were not surprised when a new restaurant, Bess, took up residence. However, like a lot of addresses in Richmond, Bess had come and gone before I had a chance to get there! I get the overwhelming feeling that Meatball is here to stay the distance.
We didn’t have a booking and the welcome was not reassuring us that we were going to be able to grab a table. After standing around uncomfortably for a little while, we were taken to the bar where luckily there was enough space for the three of us. At 7pm on a Monday night the restaurant was close to capacity with only a couple of twos otherwise available. Our bar/waitperson was really friendly and did the spiel about choosing a sauce, a ball, and a sotto palle (something for your balls to sit on!), giving a few of the classic examples.
The girls both ordered beef balls with a red (Italian tomato) sauce on creamy polenta. I mixed it up a little by getting the green sauce (salsa verde) and pork balls on the same sotto palle. Both the beef and pork balls are awesome, but the surprise is the polenta – it is definitely creamy, with beautifully balanced rich flavour that doesn’t overpower the balls or detract from the sauce. The combination of sauce/ball/sotto palle is the main dish that they do, so it better be good – and it is. To break it up a bit we had the Caprese salad which is mainly classical with some very tasty croutons, and nice fresh heirloom tomatoes, but needed a bit more of the mozzarella.
There are some nice cocktails, and plenty of good Italian wines by the glass to wash down the balls. Every aspect said comfort on this very cold May evening. The interior is warm and low lit, the service is confident and friendly, the food portions are large and wholesome, and it has a neighbourhood feel. I’ve found the same of the Flinders Lane original and expect the latest in Smith Street Fitzroy would be no different. While $21 for a dish is not necessarily “cheap” in a pub sense, for what this bar dishes out I’d happily pay that any day of the week!