Meeting Mr. Meatball
Posted by cmh gourmand on August 8, 2010
Our fair city has a fair share of surprises hidden throughout town. Columbus is very much a city of assimilation and blending, people come and stay because it is a nice place to live. We have a few neighborhoods named for ethnic enclaves of the past (German Village, Italian Village) but these areas lost their ethnic flair many decades ago. There are still a few secret spots that cling to a bit of our unassimilated past. One of these places is Mr. Meatball.
The store is off the beaten path, in an area that is a little beaten down but the destination is well worth the trip. Mr. Meatball is a wholesaler that produces meatballs, Italian sausages, ravioli, pastas, sauces, and more for Italian restaurants throughout the state. If you are in an Italian restaurant enjoying the homemade meatballs, there is a good chance you are enjoying the creation of Mr. Meatball on Cleveland Ave. not Mama Donatelli in the back kitchen. There is a small shop area in the front of the business stocked for walk in customers. In addition to the above meaty treats, the store carries some hard to find items such as Pizelle irons, Italian Cheeses, Orange oil, Anise oil, Latte di Vecchia (Maraschino Cherry) and some other treasures more often found in Cleveland, Pittsburgh or Youngstown.
Phil and Dottie Gullatta are the owners. Visitors are likely to catch Phil at the front counter more often than not. Dottie makes fresh Pizzelles for sale throughout the year. Whenever I pop in, I usually grab a bag of meatballs and a package of sausage. I have found the sausages to be very good and the meatballs come in very handy for parties. Mr. Meatball also carries a selection of heat and serve dinners including wedding soup and gnocchi which can come in handy in a pinch.
A small showcase by the cash register features various cooking utensils and instruments. Most of the ancient items are brought in by customers looking to find a home for a bit of history before they leave with a bag or twelve of meatballs. There is some other history in the store as well. A line up of family photos going back generations sits on top of the canned goods cabinets to add a sense of home to the homemade meatballs.
There is a serving of mystery at Mr. Meatball as well. This meaty tale goes back many years. A plaque on the wall states “Meatball Capital of the World“. I asked Phil about this but he could only tell me that it came with the store when he bought it years ago. Legend has it a customer gave it to the previous owner. Could it be that Columbus is the Meatball Capital of the World? This will require some research so stay tuned.
3716 Cleveland Ave.