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Paisan Meatball Sandwich - [Berkeley]

I can't say why I never made it down there for lunch before today, but today was the day. Meatball sandwich? Why not. What a great sandwich. When it came out (on a wooden plank, with a small side of mixed greens) , it looked tasty, but perhaps a bit small. I was wrong. The crusty bread (I don't know if it was from their "group" bakery, but it probably was) was really good, and you couldn't really tell how stuffed it was with meatballs until they started falling out. It was a really tasty sandwich - perhaps not a "traditional meatball sandwich" in appearance and bread type, but better than any I can recall eating in years.*

I can't now help but thinking that open face with a fried egg on top would be a great breakfast!

*I don't eat them frequently, but they are so often disappointing.

2514 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702

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  1. Kind and amount of cheese?

    I'm sure any baked goods that don't come out of the pizza oven are from the K2 group's bakery.

    1. They are spectacular. The bread appears to be cibatta. Not as much cheese as an east-coast meatball parmigiana sandwich, and I believe it's provolone. Excellent fruity tomato sauce.

      Speaking of breakfast, their prosciutto pizza would be great with a couple of eggs on top.

      And you might want to try the meatball sandwich at Luca. I find them similar to the Paisans.

      2514 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702

      1. I read that Tony's in North Beach makes a pretty good meatball parm. How do the two approaches stack up?

        1. Rotten City in Emeryville has a good meatball sandwich, as well.

          Rotten City Pizza
          6613 Hollis St, Emeryville, CA 94608

          1 Reply
          1. re: mdougherty

            It's actually much, much better. But you have to call first to make sure they're ready at lunch time. Brought people there to try them at lunch time and was told they would be ready at 4.

            They are literally the best meatball sandwiches I've had. Pizza's really good, too.

          2. I don't usually get meatball sandwiches, but I really liked the version at Southie on College Ave

            6311 College Ave, Oakland, CA 94618

            1. How much was the sandwich?

              1. It's really good, nice spicing, good balance of sauce and cheese. I'd have them hold the pesto, that seemed out of place and distracting. Harder to eat than it needs to be, I'd prefer a wider roll and sliced (rather than just split in half) meatballs. It was not ciabatta the other day, more like a narrow French roll.

                $8.50, came with a side salad.

                11 Replies
                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  Here's a photo of the meatball sandwich and salad ( in a to go box ) ...... very tasty meatballs: tender also. good cheese ( fresh mozzarella? along with tomato sauce and herbs. The bread ( roll ) was really crusty ( probably from heating ) - held up well but as RL mentioned ..... would be a lot easier to eat if the bread/roll were pac manned instead of sliced all the way through. It was quite filling even though my first impression was that it wasn't that big ( 3 meatballs ). Would definitely have this one again.

                  1. re: gordon wing

                    This may be the year of the meatball sandwich for me. The Paisan sandwich was far superior to the Southie sandwich (and almost half the price). However, IMO, Rotten City still makes the best one.

                    Loved the oven-toasted bun, great mozarella, the four meatballs were good but they were saltier than I prefer. the sauce was ok, but I like more with a deeper tomato flavor. If it had pesto in the past, it doesn't now ... only fresh basil.

                    I liked the simlply dressed salad with it. There was lots of chopped fresh garlic.

                    They serve bottled Bandenburg ginger beer. i bought this at Andronico's recently and am in love with it. It has an assertive ginger flavor and ginger bite.

                    1. re: rworange

                      price difference isn't that much. Paisan = $8.50 and Southie = $10.

                      overall, i'd give the nod to Paisan, but for me it wasn't that huge a gap.

                      i like Paisan's ciabatta better, it's softer than the La Farine baguette Southie uses, along with the texture of their meatballs.

                      i liked that Southie puts the sandwich under the broiler a bit so you get some toasted provolone flavor, like the crisped cheese that's oozed out of your grilled cheese.

                      the salad i got at Paisan tasted OK, but the greens weren't crisp, like it had been dressed in a big batch before i arrived.

                      1. re: drewskiSF

                        can't seem to add picture to my previous post. this is a badly lit pic of my Southie meatball sub

                        1. re: drewskiSF

                          I paid $13 for the Southie meatblal sub

                          1. re: rworange

                            sounds like you were overcharged. it's $10

                            the "Nana Carmella"

                            1. re: drewskiSF

                              The online menu, as stated is a sample menu and badly outdated.

                              They went thru a concept redo at the beginning of January

                              1. re: rworange

                                at Southie, it's still $10. honest!

                                i just read your other post regarding the sandwich. you got the it at Wood Tavern, not at Southie which explains the difference in price.

                    2. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Not sure if this is a change, but they now list meatballs, tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and basil (not pesto). The sandwich was served on ciabatta and lathered with an aioli that they put on all the sandwiches. There was a faint bit of lemon. The meatballs are very fresh tasting--- the flavors come together nicely, but if you chop one in half, you can spot lots of herbs (parsley or basil), chunks of garlic, etc.

                      The ciabatta is giant, so I thought about using a knife and fork. Sure enough, I was able to grasp the entire thing in my hands without problems. YMMV. This was the best sandwich I've had this year (heh, it's Jan 16th). To contrast with other meatball sandwiches around here, Southie's meatball sandwich was too expensive and not memorable at all. I love Uncle Dougie's because it captures the NY style I grew up with, but Paisan's is much fresher tasting and more refined. Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store makes a solid $7.50 meatball panini, but you certainly get better value at Paisan's and I perfer Paisan's use of mozzarella rather than swiss.

                      1. re: hyperbowler

                        Give the meatball sandwich at Rotten City Pizza near Berkeley Bowl West a try.

                        1. re: rworange

                          Thanks for the tip. Any pizza joint that has Black Sabbath blaring is worth checking out :-)

                          Rotten City Pizza made a very good meatball sandwich. Their meatballs are a mix of veal, pork, and beef and they reminded me of meatballs I'd eat back home in NY. They did seem a bit overcooked, but the amount of sauce and cheese worked nicely with the acme roll. I actually prefer Paisan's on account of them having more filler (herbs, breadcrumbs?, etc.). but I would certainly get this again if I'm in the neighborhood.

                    3. Have to make my way to Paisan sometime soon. In recent weeks I've had both Southie and Rotten City meatball subs. I think the mixture of meat in RC subs is tastier than Southie's, but I thought RC's sub lacked a certain tang. I put that down to better cheese (and possibly better sauce) at Southie, which I think I prefer on the whole.

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: fatty_mouthfeel

                        If they still have any left from the morning, try their doughnut holes. Their thick crust has grown on me and they're now my favorite sweet along San Pablo.

                          1. re: hyperbowler

                            Which one has donut holes, Paisan? If so I'm in trouble as it is on my way to work. I just stopped by there this afternoon, to complete the Berkeley meatball sandwich trifecta. My personal preference is Rotten City, Paisan, and in a lower-tier third place, Southie.
                            The meatballs in the Southie version were dry and crumbly for me, and overall there just wasn't as much flavor--either in the balls or the sauce (and I usually prefer the freshness of the lighter, less cooked sauce they use). Not to mention the structural issues. Meatball sandwiches are difficult to eat and I initially thought Southie's innovation of giving the sandwich the burrito wrap would help with this, but that with the Italian roll just made it soggy faster. I'll stick to the pulled pork next time I stop by there.
                            Paisan's sandwich was a good combination, and served with a salad. It has a lot more herbs than the others, both in the balls and basil as a topping.
                            The Rotten City version had very large meatballs, and was also the juciest of the three. Their balls definitely include pork, which is likely what I am liking, and the sauce was very tomatoey.

                            1. re: ...tm...

                              tm, thanks for doing the trifecta! I liked Paisan's rendition so now I'll have to try Rotten City's offering as well.

                              1. re: gordon wing

                                I have had Genova's, Rotten City and Southie's Meatball Sandwich...but the one I thought was better than all three was:

                                The Meatball sandwich on a toasted dutch crunch, with provolone cheese at Roxie Food Center in SF...And I am a Eastbay kinda guy!

                                Its just a small frumpy looking corner market...but man o man they make fantastic toasted sandwiches!!

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

                                Warning: Very,very crowded at lunch hour!

                                1. re: Mission

                                  I've heard great things about Roxie, yet never made it there. I'll have to give it a try. I've tried the Genova version at their Walnut Creek location and didn't care for it at all. I actually got the mix of meatballs and sausage which they offer as an option they ask you about when you just order a meatball sub. The meatballs weren't very flavorful or juicy, but the sauce was pretty good.
                                  The only problem with the Paisan version is it is only available until 2:30 pm. Luckily I was working from home today and could drop in.

                                  1. re: Mission

                                    Roxie really does make the best toasted sandwiches.

                                2. re: ...tm...

                                  Doughnut holes at paisan. You're definitely in for trouble ... :-)

                                  1. re: hyperbowler

                                    Oh, no! I thought that might be the case, since I see they're marketing Blue Bottle coffee now. I saw several people stop by during lunch for coffee and they grind fresh for espresso and drip style drinks. Fatpants!