Polpettina’s interior, like its menu, isn’t fussy.
The restaurant is named after—and famous for—its meatballs.
Polpettina’s menu is the definition of democratic, offering generous (and delicious) salads like one of arugula, walnuts, and burrata for $8. Sure, the dish could have offered another ball of burrata, but it was still a huge and satisfying salad, and it arrived with tiny, roasted beets that were almost fleshly in their intense, earthy flavor. Don’t skip the specials board, where Polpettina’s far most interesting dishes lie. On it we found paper-thin, salty, potato-chip-crisp fried eggplant slices drizzled with locally gathered honey. While these were delicious—that is, if you found the perfectly dressed chip with the ideally balanced salty/sweet bite—some skewed too sweet (but the odd pairing was ultimately rewarding). Another special—a square pizza slice with pancetta, figs, goat cheese, and honey—was still more successful, and perfectly poised among salt, sweet, tang, and pork.
The restaurant’s namesake meatballs come in three varieties (beef, pork, and chicken) and were as light and succulent as those of newsier restaurants. A trio of fluffy, one-inch pork spheres were energetically spiked with pepperoncino and arrived with welcome leaves of palate-washing broccoli rabe. It seems like a bonus that this $7 snack can be turned into a sandwich for an additional $3. Polpettina’s six varieties of French fries, given equal menu status as the meatballs, cruelly target human pleasure centers and are nearly irresistible. While a bowl of perfectly cooked (crisp-crusted outside, fluffy inside) fries were unevenly seasoned with garlic chips and herbs, the same fries under a sunny-side-up egg and bacon were deliriously tasty, and good to the last potatoey/yolky swipe.
Meaty sandwiches offer gourmet spins of homey standards, and include mortadella with escarole and fontina on brioche, or old-school chicken parm on seeded bastone. We were enamored of a hearty steak sandwich (on bastone) with broccoli rabe and provolone, which arrived with an adorable miniature jar of homemade pickles. Good thing, too, because this bready sandwich (and the chicken Milanesa) were under-seasoned without their addition.
Menu pizzas are available in three styles: thin-crusted Neapolitan, fat-crusted Grandma, and hybrid Brooklyn. These are offered with classic (such as pepperoni) and trendy (sunny-side-up egg) toppings. We found that the crisp Neapolitan crust was far superior to the cardboard-y Grandma version, but that none of the menu pies were as compelling as those on the specials board. One night, we found a small-shell clam pie with white, feathery boquerones; while the clams would have been better left in their shells (some were a bit mushy, and a couple were gritty), the whole was a briny, bready treat.
As with the menu pizzas, Polpettina’s menu pastas (Bolognese, tomato/basil, and vodka) are nowhere near as interesting as the ephemeral offerings appearing on the specials board. We found a sea urchin–miso-butter-dressed spaghetti (whose subtle flavor might have been sacrificed to the brawnier ocean-flavor of the dish’s clams) that was exciting simply because it was so improbable in this modestly aimed pizzeria. Desserts can be another surprise, and include compelling brown-paper sacks of cinnamon-sugar-dusted zeppole, and a divine (and simple) butterscotch pudding sprinkled with salt.
Wisely, Polpettina offers the element of surprise. You might choose Polpettina for its meatballs, pizza, and fries, but, once there, encounter sea urchin, honeyed eggplant, figs, and boquerones. How much smarter is it for a pizzeria to surprise with gourmet values than to declare them? We know that we’re not alone in wanting to check Polpettina’s specials board regularly.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
102 Fisher Ave,
Tues to Sat, 11 am – 10 pm;
Sun, 11 am – 8 pm
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦—Outstanding ♦ ♦ ♦ —Very Good
♦ ♦ —Good ♦ —Fair