During a recent trip to New York City, I walked by multiple meatball-focused restaurants and now Mondo Meatball has come to Chicago?s Wicker Park. Are we in the midst of a meatball revolution? These are not just your classic Italian meatballs, either. Mondo Meatball gives you a crazy amount of choices in a casual atmosphere. You pick the meat or veggie, the sauce, and how you want those meatballs delivered to you (over pasta, salad, in a sandwich, etc.).
With a name like Mondo Meatball, I was initially expecting a fast food, Subway-style place and was pleasantly surprised to find Mondo Meatball was far from what I expected.. While you do seat yourself, it is a full-service restaurant and there?s even a swanky bar area (they have a full beer, wine, and cocktail list). It does have a comfortable and casual vibe with a lot of natural light. While it is a low key, there are some trendy touches like the lighting fixtures, which look like globs of modern art meatballs, to the wall art made up of these protruding spheres (I sense a theme here).
Mondo Meatball has a fully stocked bar in the back of a restaurant with a significant drink menu that should appeal to the typical Wicker Park crowd. Prices were pretty reasonable as well. I started with the Mondo Mule?light and refreshing, this was a nice pick me up after a long day at work. Shifting gears, I went with their Manhattan in honor of Mad Men just ending. This had a rich, deep flavor that went well with the heavier food I was eating.
At first glance, the menu may seem overwhelming. As I mentioned up top, you get to choose from several different meatballs, a bunch of sauces, and how you want your balls served. Pretty much the only thing missing was rice, which would go well with some of the more Asian-influenced options on the menu. Nothing is particularly expensive on the menu and the portion sizes are pretty filling, though you may want to add on a side or save a little room for dessert.
I went with a mini-slider combo that came with a chef?s choice of three different meatballs with a typical side salad that was quite fresh. The first was a classic Italian-style beef ball with red sauce topped with parmesan made with an authentic recipe originating from the owner?s great-grandmother? who brought over her meatballs from Italy. Granted I tend to have bad luck with meatballs, but this was the tenderest meatball I?ve ever had. The meat was succulent and juicy with a great, classic Italian red sauce that wasn?t too limp or watery.
My second slider was pork with a Korean barbecue sauce. The pork was surprisingly spicy and well-balanced by the sweet BBQ sauce. Last, I had a turkey ball dipped in a very green guacamole sauce. The sauce had the strongest flavor here, and I?d caution you really have to like guacamole to get this.
For dessert, Mondo Meatball has wisely partnered with Black Dog Gelato, a nearby Ukrainian Village highlight, that will make you rethink regular ice cream forever. They had about four or five different options to choose from, and I went with a hazelnut flavor served as two ice cream balls (more balls again) on a plate.
Mondo Meatball brings a potential new food craze to Chicago. While I don?t think meatballs are going to reach Krispy Kreme levels of insanity? Mondo Meatball is worth a shot if you?re looking for a casual restaurant in the neighborhood or with a group who all want different things. Plus, the near endless variety will give you plenty of reasons to come back.