1805 Newton Avenue, Barrio Logan
When I first heard of Barrio Logan's Strozzi So-Cal Italian, I looked them up online and read "Family Made Sausage Since 1939." Wow, I thought, how has this little family-owned restaurant stayed in business for three quarters of a century and stayed off everybody's radar the whole time? Well, not to disappoint, but while the Strozzi family has been making this sausage for 75 years and counting, this place is far newer, only a few months old. Which explains why it looked so bright and shiny when I got there.
Not to further disappoint, but I didn't order the sausage. I should have, and now that I have a general idea about the quality of the place I most certainly will. But when I showed up for lunch last week I was really feeling the eatery's other signature offering: the meatball sub.
Actually, it's a pretty robust menu considering the place is only open for lunch on weekdays. All the Italian classics were on hand: torpedo, chicken parm, house-made pasta, and lasagna. Prices start at $8.50 for the sandwiches, and don't veer much higher for the other stuff.
Everything's made in-house from scratch, with the exception of the bread, which is sourced — to specification, I'm told — from California Baking Company. I didn't know this bakery before, but I'll remember it now. The sesame encrusted roll acting as base for my sub had a light, toasted crisp to it, yet remained soft and chewy despite being no more than an inch thick overall.
So if thick rolls on a meatball sub are your thing, prepare to be disappointed again. Actually, don’t, because this bread rocked, somehow holding it's own despite the huge and heavy meatballs straddling its two halves.
They're juicy, spiced with oregano, and draped with provolone. They are not served saucy, but not to fear: a thick, meaty brown sauce sits next to it, ready for dipping or pouring.
How to eat this thing became a concern. I could either unhinge my jaw and bite into what must be a three-inch diameter meatball, or slice each ball in half and tackle it tentatively, adding sauce as needed. I did the latter, and enjoyed every bite. My only regret might be that I couldn't enjoy one of the local craft brews on tap, this being lunch, and me being a responsible non-day-drinking citizen. Most days, I mean.`