The meatball sandwich was a constant in my early world. There was Mamma D's everlasting crockpot that she had salvaged from a flea market, precious meatballs bubbling in a sea of red. Off to the side, the checkered plastic sack of Amoroso sandwich rolls idled, and the worn face of the linoleum floor looked up as if to ask "Where is the droplet of sauce that will rain down on me?" The sheen of the styrofoam plates flashed head-to-head with the glare from the Kraft parmesan shaker.
If you hurried, you might get the last chair. If you got off the phone with your boyfriend, you could score the last roll. If you don't, you'll become a vegetarian.
The other night, when you were 18, you threw out the meatless meatballs because they were only half great. Your MD's crockpot was miles away. You only ate white bread as a joke. For the life of you, you could not nail that gravy recipe that was buried in the intellects of a select few. There was a sadness that dropped over you like the shuttering of a food cart at its final hour.
Tempeh is a real food. Seitan is its own wonder. A fake meatball is hard to respect, in those measures. And so I let it go, keeping my forays into alt "meat" at a minimum.
Now and again I shuffle up to the Magic Carpet, finding sometimes that the vegetarian lunch cart is not there and I have missed its window of veggie meatball opportunity.
If I find it closed, I purchase a piece of bright blue lingerie for later and settle a block over at 34th & Sansom's Saturn Club, where vegan meatballs are sold for $4.00.
But if it's between the hours of 11-4, and the quick-moving line accepts me, the Bella Donna meatball pita is the closest I get to Childhood Meatball Night in Port Richmond.
I know, Mom, that sometimes you read this, and you applaud my tart sophistication and empowered sexuality, even if photos like the one above appear that feature mush paired with rice and what appears to be cheese on, NO YOU DIDN'T, salad. I ask that you accept me, and am ever confident that you do. We're totally doing Mother-Daughter Flower Show Tea next week.
Magic Carpet is not just the cure for meatball nostalgia. I fully endorse their soy beef Enchilada Pie and chili cheese wraps. There are two locations:
34th & Walnut, 11-4
36th & Spruce, 10:30-3