March 9 is National Meatball Day. This does not refer to the baseball term, meaning a soft toss thrown right down the middle. This has all to do with round, juicy spheres of meat with sauce that tastes like Mama made them. Celebrate the day by visiting these fine Charlotte eateries. In most cases, somebody’s Mama really did inspire the recipes.
Aria Tuscan Grill
100 N. Tryon St.
Charlotte, NC 28202
The menu of this Italian restaurant is interesting, and everybody loves their spaghetti and meatballs. Located in upscale Founder’s Hall adjacent to the NC Blumenthal Center for the Performing Arts, Aria is ideal for dinner before or after a concert. The open kitchen allows for a full view of the chefs, hard at work creating delicious dishes. They also offer a lunch express menu, which includes an entrée, salad and a slice of cheesecake. Aria is a good bet for lunch, dinner, business meetings or celebrations.
Portofino’s Ristorante Italiano E Pizzeria
3124 Eastway Drive #500
Charlotte, NC 28205
Whether it’s the meatball sub, meatballs and pasta or meatball pizza, Portofino’s Ristorante Italiano e Pizzeria has an excellent reputation among those who are particular about Italian food at reasonable prices. Portofino’s sauce is so fragrant, you can smell it outside of the building! Ample portions from an extensive menu are served family style at this restaurant. It is said that leftovers that customers take home can feed them for up to two days. It also can get pretty crowded, which is a small price to pay for food that is so delicious! Their Eastway location is the original location, but look for other Portlfino’s on Park Road, Ayrsley Town Blvd. and Providence Road.
321 N. Caldwell St.
Charlotte, NC 28202
Established in 2008 by former New Yorkers, this mom-and-pop business was named after daughter Francesca, who helps her parents at the restaurant along with her two brothers. The dynamic family of five cooks Brooklyn style; their meatballs are the size of baseballs! Kids 10 and under eat free on Mondays when dining in and accompanied by an adult ordering an entrée, which makes dining at Villa Francesca affordable for any family. Be sure to try the “Grandma Pizza,” a crowd favorite.
Mama Ricotta’s Restaurant
601 S. Kings Drive
Charlotte, NC 28204
If juicy turkey meatballs over delicate angel hair pasta sounds appetizing, head on over to Mama Ricotta’s. The restaurant received a score of 25 points out of a maximum of 30 by Zagat, a survey that ranks restaurants by the opinion of its diners. Usually crowded with customers, Mama Ricotta’s seats more than 200. The portions are generous and consistently good food is served at reasonable prices. This is not the place for a quiet intimate evening, Mama Ricotta’s customers and staff are quite lively!
Meatballs On Main
20517 N. Main St.
Cornelius, NC 28031
Owners Kelly Oyama and Ann Quagliato opened the doors of Mama Ricotta’s in July, 2012. Former owners of “Wine Up” in Charlotte’s NoDa region, the night life had worn on them,which caused them to move onto a new enterprise. Meatballs on Main, the women’s new business is located in a pink-painted, historic house which happens to be a Cornelius landmark. The option of both meat or vegetarian meatballs are creatively prepared, such as a Greek meatball with lamb and ground chicken, or traditional beef. The menu also features unique items including fries made of beets, which customers say are surprisingly good. There is also wine available for sampling to help you decide what drink best accompanies your meal. You may have to drink from a styrofoam cup here, but it’s worth it for the hearty, Italian fare.
Jacquelin Celeste Peters has produced award winning radio programs at WPFW Pacifica-Washington. She is a Culture and Events Examiner in Charlotte, North Carolina, which she calls home. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.