The Truck: Red Sauce Meatballs
The Cuisine: Meat. Also veggies. In ball form.
Specialty Items: Meatball sandwich
Worth the Wait in Line? At peak lunch time, a total 8 minutes from the end of the line to food in hand.
"Everyone we talk to about this project says, 'I love meatballs,'" says Adam Zolot, owner of Red Sauce Meatballs. And indeed, people love the truck, and the truth is that the meatballs from Red Sauce are very good and are bringing us a new perspective to classic American-Italian food previously only available in the North Beach tourist joints and from Tony Gemignani's pair of restaurants.
See also: Making a Lunch Pit Stop at Truck Stop SF
The menu keeps things nice and tight, with three ways to get an order of either veggie or meat (made with veal, pork, and beef): alone ($9, three with sauce to an order with slices of garlic bread), in a slider ($4), or in a sandwich ($9).
From there you can trick out your order with cheese ($1; melted provolone, mozzarella, or fresh ricotta), or a load of peppery arugula ($2) dressed in oil and seasoned with cracked pepper and salt.
Alone the meatballs were good, but the texture seemed not quite right for the format, and it needed something more than garlic bread. The side of arugula we added was nice, though it was hard to know how the two were supposed to integrate with the whole. Despite different combinations and order of bites, I was never able create magic.
In the sandwich, the meatballs were perfect -- firm enough to keep the integrity of the sandwich, soft enough that they melded in with the whole. Though the soft Acme torpedo roll struggled a little bit to maintain its structure, it valiantly soaked up all the San Marzano based sauce. The sauce is key as much as the meatballs, adding vibrant acidity and a touch of sweetness that complimented both kinds of meatballs. If there was anything lacking, it was that I wished the bun had been toasted and gilded in the same way the garlic bread was.
The recipe and concept for Red Sauce Meatballs comes from Adam Zolot, who grew up in a restaurant family in New Jersey. While looking for locations to start a restaurant with rebooted American-Italian fare, Zolot decided to first start with a truck and meatballs to build his brand. Seems like it worked: The truck sells about 1,000 meatballs a day.
Zolot is still actively looking for a permanent location, and when the brick and mortar spot opens up, expect to see more variations of meatballs like all-veal and all-beef varieties, a turkey with provolone and broccoli rabe, and classic red sauce fare like chicken parmesan and linguini with clams.