Video recipe by Vic Chin
When I first moved to Oakland back in 1994, I discovered and immediately fell in love with a tiny little Italian deli called Genova. This place was the real deal: guys and gals behind the counter who had already been working there for countless years, the best Italian sub sandwiches I’ve ever eaten on the west coast (to this day!), and those fried artichoke balls! They moved to a larger location a few years later, but the food never changed in all the years I frequented the shop. Prosciutto and fresh mozzarella with pesto, pillowy focaccia, fresh pastas and raviolis, and meatball sandwiches. Oh, the meatball sandwiches…always a decadent treat, stuffed full of their tender homemade meatballs and dripping with sauce. Definitely, a sandwich meant to share, and to eat immediately. To my complete devastation, after being open for 90 delicious years, Genova Deli closed in 2016. Along with the legions of fans that Genova fed for so long, I was heartbroken.
Every time I see or think of a meatball sandwich, I always recall Genova’s hefty version. It was the gold standard. Even though it would be impossible to recreate (there was something about getting it there that you can never replace), I can certainly come close.
A good meatball sandwich starts with tender, homemade meatballs that are simmered a good long time in a great marinara sauce. I also add a bit of ricotta to the meatball mixture when I make meatballs, which adds moisture and richness.
I also use fresh white bread crumbs in my meatballs to add tenderness and to help hold them together.