Thursday, May 31, 2012

TBG Eats: Cafasso Meatball Company

Current Weight: 168.0 lbs.

Some of you might've heard that I manage my eight-year-old son's Little League team. Two weeks ago -- after our squad gave up 20 runs in a humiliating mutilation at the hands of the Padres -- my wife approached me with a proposal for postgame dinner plans. Her timing, as always, was impeccable.

Our team's five-game undefeated streak had been snapped slaughtered. I'd just completed a half-hearted pep talk to the team in which we collectively marveled at the symmetry of surrendering five runs in each of the first four innings. In the dugout, my son and I were the only survivors in a sea of strewn sunflower seed exoskeletons and empty sports drink recyclables. (And, our conversation wasn't doing much for my mood.)

Eating out as a family? Why that's a much better idea than my preferred after-a-loss locale -- sitting in front of our open garage door, sipping pity beer while plotting lineup-demotion punishments for a few individual players.

Mrs. Bootleg suggested a restaurant called Cafasso Meatball Company. According to their website, "CMC" was established in June 2011. It's in the Carmel Mountain section of San Diego -- ten minutes south of Stately Bootleg Manor and an awfully pretentious appellation for a neighborhood that's dissected by strip malls, chain restaurants and big box stores. (To be fair, the homes are spectacular. I'm partial to the ones that abut BevMo.)

We arrived just after 6:00 PM. The restaurant was empty, which made me feel slightly less self-conscious about the three-and-a-half hours of "outdoors-on-an-80-degree-day" that my son and I were conspicuously smuggling under our clothes. CMC's menu is posted over the front counter on three flat screens. It's a neat little high-tech touch, I suppose, but as a newcomer, I felt a bit rushed with the cashier standing at the ready.

My wife ordered spaghetti (with two meatballs) because she ALWAYS orders spaghetti at restaurants that are even tangentially Italian. My son ordered pizza because he ALWAYS orders pizza at restaurants that sell pizza. I ordered the "CMC Special" -- choice of three meatballs, sauce, cheese and garlic bread -- because I (occasionally) blog about things and the name of the meal is begging for an "Oh, yeah? We'll see about that!" anonymous response.

I went with two of the beef and bacon meatballs and one spicy beef and pork. The simple, but appealing presentation was appreciated. I'm sure someone from the five boroughs could lecture us all on meatball protocol, but the look of the three meat spheres in a miniature serving dish -- topped with dollops of sauce and perfectly-placed provolone -- raised my expectations. Unfortunately, the food fell short.

The beef and bacon meatballs appeared to be overcooked -- a darkened exterior giving way to surprisingly dry meat on the inside. The only bacon characteristic I could find was a pervasive saltiness. The spicy beef and pork meatball was the better of the two, but the spiciness wasn't especially pronounced and the pork didn't contribute anything either texturally or in flavor.

The sauce at CMC was solid, though. The meat sauce outshined the meatball stars on the marquee and went great with the gloriously oily garlic bread.

CMC's interior appears to be a kitschy tribute to Sal's Famous Pizzeria from Do the Right Thing fame. Portraits of legendary Italian-American entertainers hang from the walls and the respective restrooms are labeled with "WISEGUYS" for him and "STARLETS" for her. The service at CMC was plenty friendly and their story -- which I just learned myself from the above link -- is interesting enough for me to come back and give them another chance.

If only the patrons at Sal's Famous had been so forgiving.