Mamma Mia, that’s a spicy meatball!

August 1, 2010

Yet more eating options added to the World… recently Portobello in Downtown Disney added a bar menu of meatball sliders, and of course, I had to check them them out (again, the sacrifices I make for you people…).

Sitting waterside near Fulton’s Crab House is Portobello, a traditional Italian eatery. A couple of weeks ago they unveiled the Meatball Bar featuring, what else, but handmade meatball sliders.

Now this is not really a “new” area inside the restaurant, the bar simply has some new signage added, and of course the addition of the slider menu in the bar area.

There are four types of meatballs: Beef & Veal with Parsley; Spicy Pork; Chicken with Sage; and Salmon with Tarragon. All of them are marinated in a tomato-based sauce and then formed and cooked to order. They are served simply on a slightly chewy roll and napped with the sauce. And even though the full bar offerings are there in front of you, they are specifically promoting and pairing these with a selection of organic beers from Orlando Brewing.

As I made my way into the restaurant at lunchtime, I was greeted by the hostess and told her I had heard rumor of this new meatball bar. She pointed me into the bar area and told me that Eric (who she kept insisting was a “nice guy”) would take good care of me.

As I asked Eric about the meatballs he gave me the quick history on the concept, how they had done a test run a few months back and due to the positive response had instituted the items a couple of weeks before my visit.

I ordered up one of the brews – the Olde Pelican E.P.A., which was excellent – and tried to make up my mind about which sliders to try… Considering their pretty low price (and my usual hunger), I figured I would wind up tasting all four, but decided to start with the 3 for $5.00 deal and ordered up the three meat-based balls.

As Eric put in my order, we were informed they didn’t have a beef ready yet – I jokingly inquired how, of any of the items, you could run out of beef? I could see maybe not having fresh salmon one day, but not having freaking hamburger around? This prompted much back-and-forth between Eric and the chef as to “Where’s the beef?” After this homage to Clara Peller eventually died down I selected the salmon instead as my third ball… keep the comments to yourself please, this is Disney after all…

The sliders were taking a while to arrive, and Eric good-naturedly kept harassing the chef to speed the order up, and considering I was the only patron there at the moment it did seem to take longer than really should have been required to cook my balls (my meatballs, that is)… I’ll cut them a bit of slack as I was there right as they opened, and it seemed a good bit of prep work was being done at the same time.

As I sipped on my beer I took the available time to query Eric about the regular menu. He was very, and seemingly honestly, enthusiastic about the food there. Noting that he was of Italian descent (and thusly I assume he meant he had to be good judge of Italian food), he ran through a few of his personal favorites and all sounded quite good. And since the two particular favorites noted among the entrees (the Rigatoni Calabrese he said was generally the staffs’ number one personal pick, and his own favorite was the Bucatini) were among the least expensive on the menu, I think he was honestly fond of the food and not just trying to do a good selling job.

When the sliders made their appearance, I ordered a second brew (I must have spilled part of the first one!) and dug in…

Two of the Meatball Sliders: Chicken with Sage on the left and Spicy Pork to the right

The good-size meatballs were all tender and flavorful – the pork had a moderate amount of spice, while the chicken tasted like, well, chicken…

Next was the salmon… now I was not too excited about this as I’m actually not too fond of salmon (but I will take the gastronomic bullet for you folks), but the mixture along with the tomato sauce was surprisingly good – I’d actually order it on purpose again… go figure…

Salmon with Tarragon Slider

The three meat sliders run $1.95 each, while the salmon will set you back $2.95. Not bad for food around Disney, but the real deal is that you can order any three for $5.00. The organic beers will cost you $5.95 per bottle (not at all out of line for a beer around the World, and well worth it in my opinion).

According to Eric, the sliders (and have I told you I have a rant coming on about “sliders”? We’ll save that for another time however…) are only served in the immediate bar area and not offered to patrons there for a “regular” meal. He explained that this was due to the “made-to-order” nature of the items and they might not be able to keep up if they were added as a regular appetizer type item.

One or two of these sliders would make a nice mid-day (or late night) snack – or go for three or more (along with a tasty adult beverage of course) for a more filling lunch or dinner. And I’d say this has to be among the better values to be had on property, especially when you consider the the restaurant itself is a bit on the more pricey side.

And yes, I’d say this was good enough to warrant another visit to Portobello’s Meatball Bar on an upcoming trip to Downtown Disney… I do still have to try the damn beef…

I haven’t eaten a “full” meal at this restaurant since it was the Portobello Yacht Club, but with my new buddy Eric’s enthusiastic dining recommendations I’m going to make a point of trying out their evening offering sooner rather than later.

I wouldn’t say the meatballs are worth a special “dining destination” trip, but next time you’re in DTD, they are certainly worth a try… if you’d had them, post your comments!

And yes dear readers, there were two references to old TV commercials in one post (and sadly I knew the name of the “Where’s the beef?” lady off the top of my head without aid from Google)… I’ll try not to inflict that upon you again…

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