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Polpetta puts focus on meatballs, cocktails in Rocky River

August 31, 2018

Polpetta puts focus on meatballs, cocktails in Rocky River

ROCKY RIVER, Ohio – Polpetta’s door handle is one of the more unique ones in Greater Cleveland, a not-so-subtle culinary harbinger.

It’s a meat grinder.

It tells half the story about what Polpetta is all about: Meatballs. The other half is craft cocktails.

Polpetta – which is set to open Wednesday, Sept. 5 – has a menu with a lot of meatball options. And by a lot, we mean thousands: The owners estimate there are 4,000 different combinations from which to choose, between the multitude of sauces, sides and balls.

“This menu is way different,” said Brian Okin, one of four owners. “We’re used to composed dishes.”

Build-your-own choices cover 10 types of meatballs, 20 sauce options (ranging from nothing to black bean and rice, or lobster and crab) and 17 sides (pasta e fagioli to spaetzle and even hummus).

The menu does have set combinations as well, for those who want to concentrate on eating and not thinking.

“It’s pick you ball, pick your sauce, pick your side,” Okin said. You can get them in grinders or slider, too.

“As long as we don’t get all 4,000 all at once we should be in good shape,” said Okin, one of the owners along with Curtis Cousineau, whose construction skills were behind the bar and other parts of the space; Stefan Was and Adam Bostwick, Okin’s brother-in-law.

The space has undergone an interesting evolution: It was the former River Dog Café, and before that it was a Dairy Queen. It’s in a strip mall on a busy stretch of Detroit Road in Rocky River, next to Bomba Tacos & Rum and other businesses that include a salon and CVS.

Its other focus is cocktails.

“We’re not doing Porco, we’re not doing tiki drinks,” Okin said. Polpetta actually got its start in Porco Lounge & Tiki Room on W. 25th St. in Cleveland. Rob Biehl, formerly of Wonder Bar, will guide the craft and classic cocktails.

Bottles and cans of beer – no draft – will be available. About half of the two dozen craft beers are local.

“When you think of meatballs,” Okin said, “you think of wine.”

Every bottle is available by the glass – a bit of a rarity and a welcomed approach in restaurants. And the diverse list leans to “small producers, boutique-y” vino, he said.

“No grocery-store wines,” Okin said.

Almost three dozen wines include a quartet of roses from France and Spain, a Cava among the sparklers, and unique red and white offerings.

But back to those meatballs.

Meatballs are a relatively new dish, in the grand history of food. They date to the latter 1800s / early 1900s, with the wave of Italian immigrants coming to America. “Polpetta” is Italian for “meatballs.”

Not only does Polpetta have thousands of combinations focusing on meatballs, but they will make their way into whimsical artistic touches.

Wall art will have subliminal plays on meatballs. A picture of a bowler, for instance, will substitute a meatball for a bowling ball. A person getting married will have a meatball, not a ring. Even the drinks menu shows Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers gripping a meatball the size of a basketball.

Other aspects of Polpetta:

• Lest you think the 4,000 combination possibilities are overwhelming, a handy “sauce gloss” defines the sauces.

• Cousineau said 95 percent of the menu is gluten-free. Polpetta is using oats instead of bread crumbs, and most sides and all sauces are vegetarian.

• Harris Road Farm, with 22 raised beds, will supply some of the vegetables. “We’re big into local, as much as we can be,” Okin said.

• A six-seat chef’s table faces the kitchen. “It gives people a chance to see the action in the kitchen,” Okin said.

• Graffiti artist Bob Peck did some of the work in the space.

“The other thing that makes the restaurant accessible is we’re not Italian,” Okin said. “If you want Italian, you’re getting that here. If you want Asian, you’re getting that here. If you want Mexican, you’re getting that here. It makes it more conducive to come every week.”

Added Cousineau: “It also settles the argument ‘Where do we go tonight?’ ”

About Polpetta

The restaurant is at 19900 Detroit Road, Rocky River, on the north side of the road and to the west of Linda Street. It has a parking lot in front.

More on Polpetta: How Polpetta arrived at its meatballs concept

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