Meatballs are not just for spaghetti any more. That’s the concept behind Meatballs on Main, a unique new restaurant in the 105-year-old Victorian house on North Main Street in Cornelius. MOM is the brainchild of Ann Quagliato and Kelly Oyama, whose former venture, Wine Up, brought Bordeaux and billiards to Charlotte’s NoDa district. Although traditionalists will be pleased to find spaghetti and a spicy fire-roasted marinara sauce on the menu, any resemblance to an Italian restaurant ends there. Instead, diners at MOM can choose from gourmet beef, pork, chicken (the pork and chicken also contain Applewood smoked bacon) or veggie meatballs. Meatball toppings include marina, a spicy meat (pork) sauce, whisky barbecue, mushroom gravy or parmesan cream. It’s all served over a base of spaghetti, hand-cut fries, smashed red potatoes or white beans, for $9 to $10. A smaller version, the mini-MOM combo, comes with two meatballs, sauce and a foccacia breadstick, for $7 or $8. Sides include creamy macaroni and cheese with cheddar, asiago, parmesan and Romano cheeses, roasted beets with spinach, almonds and shaved Romano cheese and a classic Julia Child recipe of baked spinach topped with Swiss cheese and bread crumbs. Quagliato says everything on the menu is made in house from scratch. On a recent visit, the beef and pork meatballs were hearty, delicious and clearly fresh. The mushroom gravy, which features three types of mushrooms, was rich and flavorful. In retrospect, combining the pork meatballs, which include cherry peppers, with the “spicy” pork meat sauce might have been overkill, but the sauce was tasty and obviously made from fresh ingredients. Appetizers include bruschetta and red pepper hummus with toasted pita chips or fries. Salad choices include spinach, classic Caesar or a romaine wedge. The “toasted” pita chips are actually flash fried in peanut oil to a rich, buttery crunch that will likely have patrons asking to purchase them by the bag. The hummus was fresh and creamy. Those who prefer their meatballs “packed” can put together their own combination of meatballs and sauce in the form of a hero or “smash,” for $6 to $8, which includes a small green salad or hand-cut fries. The restaurant is definitely kid-friendly and offers a kid’s meal with two meatballs, sauce, base and a drink, for $5. Oyama, who attended culinary school and owned several bars and restaurants, oversees the kitchen, and Quagliato the front of the house. “The idea was inspired by a restaurant in New York that offers only meatballs, but the recipes are our own,” says Quagliato. They’re also responsible for the decor, which features several cozy dining rooms with custom-made tables, a full bar and front porch seating. Quagliato and Oyama did all the interior work themselves, including the witty hand-printed sayings on the walls. “We want it to be a fun, friendly space for everyone,” Quagliato says. “We had wanted to open a full-fledged restaurant for years and we wanted to be outside Charlotte, which has so many restaurants, but not too far from the city for people to drive up if they want. Kelly and I had both lived in Cornelius, so we looked in this area first. It’s a great space and we love that the location has history.” Although the menu is more or less set, Quagliato anticipates a few “tweaks,” perhaps weekly specials and some specialty dishes such as Asian meatballs in a curry or chimichurri sauce. “We’ve been delighted with the response,” she says. “It’s a different concept, but most people seem to get it once they read the menu. People seem to enjoy their experience, which is the important thing.”
Want to go? What: Meatballs on Main Where: 20517 N. Main Street, Cornelius Contact: 704 765-5815, www.meatballsonmain.com Hours: Mon. – Thurs. 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri. 11:30 a.m.-midnight, Sat. noon-midnight.