HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >


Meatball Sandwich Hunt

For the last few months I've had a craving for a meatball sandwich with marinara. So I've sampled several, and I list my rankings below. Are there other places in SF that 'Hounds recommend?

1. The Gold Standard: Pasta Gina on Diamond near 24th. Wonderfully seasoned, huge meatballs, perfect texture, cut in half on an Acme roll. The marinara is thick and deeply flavorful. Mozzerella is the highest quality. With tax it's a bit over $9, and you have to sit outside on a bench, but this is one of the best sandwiches I've ever had, bar none.

2. Morty's Deli, in the Tenderloin. Also obviously homemade meatballs, with hints of fennel and oregano. Good, substantial roll (MAY have been sourdough), marinara tasty, cheese unremarkable.

3. Mastrelli's Deli in SF Ferry Building. Also homemade meatballs, but spicing not as delicious as Pasta Gina or Morty's. Marinara tasty. Choice of rolls. On the clerk's recommendation, I got the ciabatta roll. Mastrelli's puts the sandwich in a press, which I don't care for - and the roll dissolved before I was done with the sandwich. I don't remember the cheese.

4. Marina Submarine on Union St. I'm pretty sure these are factory meatballs. "Homemade" marinara is unremarkable. Cheap roll that disintegrates after the first bite.

5. Subway. The meatball is the sandwich of the day on Tuesdays, when it's only $2.99. Cheap bread, toasted, factory meatballs, but not bad at all for the price.

On my list to try:
Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store
Mozzarella de Buffula
Giorgio's Pizzeria.

Any other suggestions/favorites?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. On nasty rainy days, I crave meatball sandwiches as well. There was a place I liked on Union Street in Cow Hollow--a little Italian deli that was only open weekdays during regular business hours, so I only visited a few times when I was home sick.

    I think it is Corsagna's?

    1668 Union St, San Francisco, CA 94123

    1. Try Bigfoot Subs on the east side of Divisadero, north of Haight (I think). Also try Gambino's, on the street level of One Embarcadero Center.

      3 Replies
      1. re: DavidT

        I second Gambino's. Haven't tried their meatball sub, but the sausage & pepper sub just like I remember from childhood in NJ/NY Metro area

        Gambino's New York Subs
        301 Clay St, San Francisco, CA 94111

        1. re: Concetta

          Gambino's is where I go (although now I must try Pasta Gina)
          I always ask for extra sauce, and they are happy to accomodate.

        2. re: DavidT

          As noted below by Gordon Wing, I believe it is King Foot (not Bigfoot) Subs, on Divisadero, near Haight.

        3. I like the meatball sandwich at Amici's (I've only had the sandwich at the King St. branch near the ballpark.) The only problem here is that they stop serving it at 3:00 pm every day. I wish that they'd put it on their dinner menu. It's very delicious.

          I also like the take-out only meatball sandwich at Roxie's on San Jose Ave. (I think that they also serve it at their branch on Kirkham in the Inner Sunset.

          Roxie Food Center
          1901 San Jose Ave, San Francisco, CA 94112

          Amici's East Coast Pizzeria
          216 King St, San Francisco, CA 94107

          Amici's East Coast Pizzeria
          2200 Lombard St, San Francisco, CA 94123

          Roxie's Market & Deli
          500 Kirkham St, San Francisco, CA

          1. I used to be a fan of the meatball sandwich at the old US Restaurant. I haven't been since it moved and now I hear the restaurant has been sold. It was a great sandwich back in the day....maybe worth checking out if you're in the neighborhood.

            1. It's been awhile since I've been there but I used to enjoy the meatball sub at King Foot Subs - 258 Divisadero Ave. SF ( near Haight ) Couldn't find any old posts on Chowhound but did come up with some others.....

              1 Reply
              1. re: gordon wing

                The meatball sub is as good as ever at Kingfoot. I have it about twice a month.

              2. Went to Gambino's today for a meatball sub. Nowhere near as good as Pasta Gina, Morty's or Mastrelli's. Factory meatballs with no particular seasoning except lots of salt. Marinara is fairly good though, and they are generous with it. The worst part was the cheap factory roll, which instantly turned into a sopping pad of marinara-flavored cotton.

                4 Replies
                1. re: lmarie

                  I went to Pasta Gina's yesterday..at 11:30 they were out of rolls so they couldn't make me a sandwich!!!....so I bought just the meatballs, but haven't tried them yet...since I was in the neighborhood I went to the new sub shop on Castro and 24th where the ice cream place used to be...they had a meatball sandwich but no mozzarella, only other cheeses...they do make a vegetarian sandwich with buffalo mozzarella, but even with me saying I would pay the difference, he would not make my sandwich with it....the meatballs were good, the sauce was good but on the sweet side, I like a more tangy marinara....on my way back to the car after downing this sandwich...I spied Andiamo a deli about a block from Pasta Gina...and being the sick Chowhound that I am ..I ordered a sandwich there...I could only down a bite or two in the car...meatballs seemed okay...sauce had no personality...I gave the rest of the meatballs to Maya my real Chowhound (see photo)....she thought it was the best meatball sandwich she ever had...maybe because it was the ONLY meatball sandwich she ever had!

                  1. re: ChowFun_derek

                    follow up on Pasta Gina's meatballs...
                    Imarie was spot on...these meatballs have character....I'm glad they were out of rolls when I went, so I got to taste the balls and sauce straight......balls..terrific texture with herbage...basil and or parsley....superior tomato sauce, thick and flavorful.....Pasta Gina ...definitely a place I will return to.....
                    They fill canolli's fresh there, but they are not cheap....a little too powdery (from powdered sugar in the mixture) but with good guality chips, and of course a crisp shell.....

                    re: My Chowhound Maya and her experience with Andiamos' meatballs....she wolfed them down with obvious pleasure...(I thought they were ordinary...but different animals...different tastes)....HOWEVER she had diarrhea all the next day...a cautionary "tale"....perhaps..
                    As to Pasta Ginas' meatballs...she ain't getten none..they're ALL mine!

                    1. re: ChowFun_derek


                      Pasta Gina
                      741 Diamond St, San Francisco, CA 94114

                      1. re: rworange

                        Yo, Gina's from Sout' Filly. Wudjuh expect? Try her lasagna too!

                  1. re: robertwells

                    Genova on 51st ST and Telegraph in Oakland.

                    1. re: Oakland Barb

                      Just had Genova's meatball sub yesterday. Excellent meatballs, juicy and flavorful, just enough slightly chunky sauce, and the best part is they put roasted peppers and onions on the sub too. The bread (sweet, fresh roll) is from Maggiora, and complements the meatballs nicely- just enough structure, but soft enough to sop up juices and not shoot meatballs out the sides when you take a bite.

                      Recent other meatball subs included Molinari, which was possibly the worst I've ever had. The bread was really tough, the meatball (large, sliced) was dry and tasteless and the sauce lacked character. Subs, Inc, on 24th does a decent job, and they're super friendly to boot.

                    2. re: robertwells

                      Yep, the meatball sandwich at Chow, at least in SF, is terrific, but it's the Sunday special sandwich only and not on the regular menu.

                      1. re: Frosty Melon

                        I'm not a meatball sandwich connoisseur, but the version at Chow is definitely good enough I'd say it should be on lmarie's list to try well ahead of Pomodoro... house made meatballs, pretty good roll (not factory wonderbread that dissolves!) , melted mozzarella, plenty of sauce.

                        1. re: SteveG

                          Granted it has been a number of years ago that I ordered the meatball sandwich at Chow (it really is my 'go to place' (a little like my local upscale diner)...but I found the meatballs then to be almost "powdery" in their consistency ..if that is a description that resonates with anyone....dry and powdery...! Other stuff are great...burger, salads, chicken, shortribs etc....perhaps I should try them again....

                        2. re: Frosty Melon

                          Saturday and Sunday sandwiches (BLT and meatball) are available every day of the week. Just ask for them.

                          1. re: ola

                            I was at Chow a week ago Monday and asked if there was any chance of getting a meatball sandwich. Our waiter thought it would be fine and went to the kitchen to ask, but got denied. I was so sad - I miss their daily sandwich menu, the BLT is nowhere to be found either. Those were my two favorite items from Chow.

                            1. re: Meredith

                              Yes, I am not at all happy with their new "reduced" menu......not my "go to diner" anymore...pity!

                              1. re: Meredith

                                Maybe the Lafayette Chow is different but I had the BLT (off the menu) for lunch on Monday and the meatball today though both are considered weekend sandwiches.

                                1. re: ola

                                  I guess their sandwiches are good?

                                2. re: Meredith

                                  I was at Chow about a week ago, and our waiter said they were bringing back the daily special sandwiches, starting out as normal specials. Don't give up hope ;-)

                                  1. re: SteveG

                                    Thanks so much for the update! That will definitely get me back in there.

                          2. Bucci's in Emeryville makes a darned respectable meatball sammich, or at least it was good the last time I was there. (2 plus yrs ago...). Have to disagree about Chow, though. Thought their meatballs were a tad rubbery and meat had a funny "Alpo" like quality. Yes, I have eaten Alpo....in College......on a dare.....too many shots...

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: adamshoe

                              Rotton city pizza makes a nice MEATBALL PARMIGIANO SUB - $8.95

                            2. I love the meatballs served with the spaghetti at Mary's Pizza Shack in Walnut Creek (other North Bay locations, too). Someone on this board raved about their meatball sandwich. Their meatballs have sausage in them and they're super tasty.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: katya

                                Open faced turkey meatball sandwich at Bovolo in Healdsburg. The best ever, each detail from scratch.

                              2. Dino's on Fillmore and California is pretty good.

                                1. Anyone know what happened to the recipe from Herb's Deli on Taraval? They made the best meatball sandwiches and only sold them on Thursdays. I even planned days off of work so I could get a sandwich! They closed around 2001 and had a sign in their window that they were going to either sell the recipe to another deli/restaurant or sell copies to individuals. I signed up twice but never heard a thing. I would love to have that recipe!

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: RussG

                                    Herb's definitely had a great meatball sandwich! Used to go there in the 80's. Funny, Herb's was the first place to pop into mind when I saw the title on the thread.

                                  2. Amici's does a very good meatball sandwich, not available after 3 pm. Lots of cheese and just enough sauce. Because the bread is toasted, it's easier to eat if you cut the meatballs in half.

                                    1. I have been looking for a good meatball sub in the Silicon Valley area, and finally have one worth reporting to Chowhound. A Slice of New York is best known for its pizza, but this time I tried the meatball sub and it is the best I've had out here, and one of the best I have had anywhere.

                                      Meatballs, marinara, and cheese are layered into the delicious bread and toasted in a real pizza oven for a few minutes. The bread by itself would be a star; the combination of the four flavors was just magnificent.

                                      This takeout-oriented place has only four seats inside, but with the nice summer weather there are some tables outside that practically triple the seating capacity. So it is good news that they have been successful enough for the owner to be looking to add a second, larger location.


                                      A Slice of New York
                                      3443 Stevens Creek Blvd, San Jose, CA 95117

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: mdg

                                        I've now had the meatball parm at A Slice of New York's new Sunnyvale location, and this is now officially a destination place for meatball subs! Call them ahead of time because if they need to bake the bread it's a 20-minute wait. The combination of the fresh-baked bread, the marvelous meatballs, and excellent sauce and cheese still can't be beat. I've never had better.

                                        And now the place is big enough that you can sit down and eat regardless of weather!


                                        A Slice of New York
                                        1253 W El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, CA 94087

                                        1. re: mdg

                                          Curious about the bread that everyone raves about, I called this place and asked. They said they use the same recipe they use for the pizza dough and bake it themselves. Interesting.

                                      2. If there is a better meatball sandwich in SF than at Emmy's Spaghetti Shack, I haven't tasted it.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: sfhound

                                          do you know whether Emmy's is open for lunch?

                                          1. re: ChowFun_derek

                                            SF menu pages.
                                            Sun-Thu: 5:30pm-11pm
                                            Fri-Sat: 5:30pm-12am

                                            Interesting there seems to be 2 different place sites in terms of history.

                                            Emmy's Spaghetti Shack
                                            18 Virginia Ave, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                            1. re: wolfe

                                              hmmm? a sandwich for dinner??
                                              I prefer a Hero for lunch...Pasta Gina in Noe Valley has become my favorite! thanks for the info though!

                                        2. Mmmm, Angelina's on 22nd and California. Apparently a catering company with a small storefront cafe. Nice, toasty sub roll that stays crisp on the outside, soaking up the marinara (not sweet, yay!) on the inside. Melted, gooey mozzarella and peperoncini. Meatballs have a very finely ground texture, house-made. My friend's slow-roasted pork sandwich with ham, melted cheese, and sliced dill pickles may have been even better. Something like $6.95? Very good...


                                          6 Replies
                                          1. re: chaddict

                                            You have a knack for finding sandwiches in little-mentioned places.

                                            Angelina's Catering & Deli-Café
                                            6000 California St, San Francisco, CA

                                            1. re: rworange

                                              I'm telling you, their sandwiches looked gooood. They also had 2 sandwiches featuring Boccalone meats. And while not listed on the board, I'm willing to bet they would make a meatloaf sandwich if requested as they do serve it alone (someone had a chicken Parmesan sandwich even though that wasn't listed either).

                                              1. re: rworange

                                                Maybe little-mentioned, but they've been around for 25 years according to the website. Some people must have noticed them.

                                              2. re: chaddict

                                                Ooh, your friend's sandwich sounds like a Cubano, yes?

                                                1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                  well, they didn't call it a Cubano and I, myself, have never had a real Cubano. But come to think of it, I guess you could say that...

                                                  I'm telling you, it was tasty. Perfectly toasted bun, good roast pork with bits of fat, thinly sliced ham (but he is saying he doesn't remember the ham), melted cheese (I don't remember the exact type), and long, sliced pickles. Darn! Now *I* am craving one!

                                                  They also serve wine and beer which seemed odd for such a little corner cafe/ deli. Try it! I think you'll like it.

                                                2. re: chaddict

                                                  I should clarify: it's provolone, not mozzarella.

                                                  You can skip Village Pizzeria on Clement, yuck!

                                                3. I had a meatball sandwich today from Mr. Pickles at 20th St and South Van Ness. Overall, not that good. The meatballs were okay, sauce was too sweet and too seasoned......I had the sourdough roll which I somewhat regretted - the sourdough flavor didn't mesh well with the pasta sauce. I think a regular Italian roll would have been better.

                                                  Mr Pickles Sandwich Shop
                                                  3380 20th St, San Francisco, CA

                                                  1. Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store
                                                    566 Columbus Ave
                                                    Sounds weird but try this little gems focaccia meatball sandwich..

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: arste

                                                      Mario's has been a fixture in North Beach for a long time. Thanks for reminding me of it.

                                                      1. re: arste

                                                        definitely one of the greats. The meatball is great on the liguria foccacia with the pepperoncini. Love it!

                                                      2. When you finally get to the inner sunset, you can try Milano's as they are great all around, but you *MUST* try Pasquale's. I thought it was weird that a *delivered* meatball sub was one of the best I ever had. So I walked down there later that week and had number two...

                                                        holy yum.

                                                        1. North Beach Pizza has a good mb sandwich with the sub roll toasted just right and enough cheese to handle the meatballs.

                                                          1. Dino's on Fillmore and California has a basic meatball sandwich that works for me...garlic and onions and cheese...it's solid.

                                                            1. Don't bother with Goat Hill Pizza's meatball sando. Cheese on the bottom...open faced...crunchy roll. Blech.

                                                              Their pizza on the other hand is fantastic...

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: scosco

                                                                I have not found Goat Hill pizza to be fantastic - the all-you-can eat buffet is not bad, since it's a good bargain, but the one time I ordered take out, the pizza was small and pretty flavorless - and very expensive!

                                                                (I went to the Goat Hill in Potrero Hill)

                                                                1. re: Dave MP

                                                                  Hmmm...go figure. I've had a couple bad pies there over the years myself, but in general they beat most out there. Aside from Delfina and Pauline's that is.

                                                                  "Fantastic" might have been a stretch I guess. Very good might have been a better phrase.

                                                              2. There is a great new pizza dive at 46th Ave. and Noriega in the Sunset that has awesome sandwiches-they call them grinders and they do meatball....incredible! They stop serving the sandos at 4pm I think....it's called "The Pizza Place on Noriega"...easy parking great food...if you're adventurous, try the roasted cauliflower as a side....mmm!

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: Satyr

                                                                  link 2

                                                                  The Pizza Place on Noriega
                                                                  3901 Noriega St, San Francisco, CA 94122

                                                                  1. re: Satyr

                                                                    Thanks for this Satyr! This is silly, as the name is used far and wide... you don't happen to DJ locally?

                                                                  2. Resurrecting this thread to throw in a mention for the meatball sandwich at Pi (Valencia & 25th), which I had last night. Delicious, just-spicy-enough meatballs with marinara and cheese, on the perfect roll, soft but crusty. Really held up to the meatballs. Came with a side salad, $9. I'd rate this one above Chow's (though I haven't had that one in over a year at least) and the one The Sentinel had last year.


                                                                    1. Looks as if Southie ( new sandwich place next to Wood Tavern in Oakland) will be serving a pork and beef meatball sandwich when they open this friday... Will have to try it.

                                                                      Wood Tavern
                                                                      6317 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618

                                                                      1. Has anyone tried the meatball sub at Tony's Coal Fired Pizza and Slice House?

                                                                        5 Replies
                                                                        1. re: steve h.

                                                                          Not yet, but I've had the meatballs from the restaurant and they're tasty. I don't like the bread he is using for the sandwiches though, so that would definitely swing it for me...

                                                                          1. re: hellatacos

                                                                            Acme supplies the bread for the subs and the sandwiches.
                                                                            According to Grub Street, you have a choice of Italian, Sweet Roll, Sour Roll, Levain (Whole Wheat Blend), New York Rye, Cranberry Walnut, Italian French Bakery (hard roll).


                                                                            1. re: steve h.

                                                                              hrmm yeah not sure which one the italian beef was on when i tried it but it wasn't that great maybe he changed up the bread since i've been. seems like its hard to find an east coast hoagie roll in the bay area, with the exception of places that import amoroso rolls from philly.

                                                                              1. re: hellatacos

                                                                                I feel your pain. I'll give the meatball sub a shot next time I'm in San Francisco.

                                                                                1. re: hellatacos

                                                                                  Stay tuned, I'm doing the research, writing the plan, finding the spot and opening just such a place within the next year, in SF.

                                                                          2. Tony's Deli/Pizza has great meatball sandwiches. Between theirs and Mario's, I prefer Tony's.