I am a sucker for meatballs. Make them myself, though not as much as the hubster would like. I’ll use anything in the house for filler — saltine crackers, bread, rice, oatmeal, whatever. Usually hide some carrot shards in there for moisture. What never changes are the other items — ground beef (preferably 80/20), egg, dried chopped onions and garlic, salt and pepper. If they’re going in a sandwich I’ll add cumin, a little Worchestershire and maybe even a touch of Heinz ketchup. If they’re going with pasta and will be simmering in a marinara, I put in some oregano, a smack of basil, maybe a little fresh rosemary and if I’m feeling generous a little mozzarella and parmesan.
Meatballs have the potential to be just about anything. They’re so easy to make, they can be made from all sorts of combinations of things, and they go in so many things. So why do so many places use the exact same beef or beef and pork meatballs they can get from food suppliers?
I had thought there must be some divine reason this couldn’t happen, until I went to OW Pizza the other day. There I was enlightened.
I went for a very late lunch with my photographer; we were searching out venues for his food and travel photography around town and we’d been searching all day. The thought had pretty much left our minds. We were heading back home from our last stop and were hungry and tired.
I recalled Miss Kim mentioning these meatballs I needed to try on my next visit, and asked if OW Pizza would be an acceptable place to stop off and eat. It was. So we pulled up around 4 p.m. and walked in.
And Miss Kim recognized me and came over and introduced herself, and art was discussed, and I was still thinking about those meatballs, how to have them. I wanted some in a bad way. I mean, even though I hadn’t tried Miss Kim’s version I knew they were all beef — and that couldn’t be bad. For all I knew, they were made somewhere else and brought in.
So I ordered my meatballs in a calzone with mushrooms. Grav chose pesto pasta with ‘shrooms and artichoke hearts and we called it good, and while more art was discussed, pulled out and revealed I fiddled with the idea of mushrooms and hoped for the best.
Miss Kim had an idea of how excited I was about those mushrooms. She figured I needed to taste them in their natural element. So she brought out an order — what’s called Uncle Ellen’s meatballs at the restaurant. And we tried them.
Okay, no golf balls of meaty toughness here. No prescribed ratio of meat to filler. It wasn’t like any sort of meatball I’d ever had before, and that was a good thing. Meatballs shouldn’t be identical place to place. This one….
This one tasted of parsley and onion and garlic and oregano, but not canned parsley and oregano but fresh like just picked. The meat wasn’t exactly loose packed but it wasn’t smushed into an unpenetratable ball. It had very little filler — of the breadcrumb variety, I believe. It was studded with bits of onion and green bell pepper and it tasted like… like lasagna meat. I’m sorry — that’s what it tasted like to me! It was so good!
It was topped with that fresh marinara OW Pizza uses with its big hunks of tomato and lots of fresh spices. And over that was a delicious blend of mozzarella and provolone cheeses and a strong dusting of oregano.
I’d a been happy with just that, but out comes my calzone and I was in heaven. The addition of thick slices of mushrooms to that mix was worthy of mention as it was — but what I loved was the buttery dough, an almost pastry-quality dough hand packed and sealed with a twist. It was crusty in the way a good danish is crusty, but it so worked. More marinara was provided for dipping the calzone, and I took advantage of that too.By the end of the meal Grav had secured a place to show his art
, right there on the walls of OW Pizza (though I gotta tell you, it’s a challenge to hang art with walls that are plaster and concrete block!). We also went back and had lunch again… I had to have that tuna salad with the capers I like so much, Grav choosing the Mediterranean Bread and discovering his new favorite (he liked it so much I never got a shot at the Feta and vegetable bread).
I will say this — after eating light like that, I was able to dig into the brownie a la mode there… and that’s another unusual fresh made-right-there thing. OW’s brownies are laced with cinnamon and are lighter than average. They have that crinkly top that you just have to have for a good brownie, and they match well with vanilla ice cream. Yum.
But what’s likely going to keep bringing me back are those meatballs. I could try them on a pizza or in a sandwich, but chances are I’m just going to order them on their own, maybe with some garlic bread. They’re that good.
O.W. Pizza is in the shadow of the State Capital on West Third Street. It’s open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. (501) 374-5504 or check out the Facebook fan page.