Grotto and Pagliuca
I was looking for the best spaghetti and meatballs in Boston. Following the advice I read on chowhound, I tried Grotto (37 Bowdoin St) and Pagliuca's (14 Parmenter St).
Grotto is a tremendously romantic restaurant -- tucked underground, with dark walls and deep red curtains. The meatballs are excellent, but they're served with an aggressively salty, unctuously rich sauce smothered in parmesan. It was too much after a few forkfuls.
Pagliuca's was opposite extreme. The sauce was plain, almost austere. It lacked seasoning, and the zest of garlic and herbs. I very rarely add salt to food (even to french fries), but this was one time when it was needed. Strangely enough, the lasagna from the same kitchen had a slight excess of it.
I'm still searching for a great spaghetti and meatballs. The sauce should be bright, tasting of fresh tomatoes and herbs -- redolent of the garden -- without too much salt or cheese to weigh it down. It should not be bitter or overcooked (a flaw that I found in other restaurants). Any suggestions?
I'm not sure what you're looking for actually exists. In the best spaghetti and meatball dishes I've had, the sauce isn't redolent of the garden. I think this is primarily because the meatballs are qucikly panfried then brought up to serving temp by stewing in the sauce. This gives the sauce a thicker, heartier, profile. You may be better served ordering Spaghetti Marina (here's your bright garden flavor) and a side of meatballs.
If you do find what you're looking for, please let me know. I'm very interested in finding the best S&M myself.
So shoot me, but for something simple like spaghetti's and meatballs, I actually like the version they do at Maggiano's. It's more like spaghetti and one giant meatball, but I've found it to be pretty good. One of the things I default to when I get dragged to Maggiano's for a meal.