The classic meatballs with red sauce.
Veggie balls, with ricotta and garlic bread.
The truck, with new branding and all.
You can get this slider for four dollars,
Compared to New York—which is about to welcome a fifth(!) iteration of the much-loved Meatball Shop—San Francisco has long been woefully lacking in the spherical-meats game.
Until now, that is. A new meatball truck (and SF's first meatball-dedicated business), Red Sauce, wraps up its first week tonight with its second appearance at Homestead in the Mission. After trying most of owner Adam Zolot’s menu yesterday, I can safely say that it's a worthy addition to SF's food-truck ecosystem. The meatballs—made with a classic Italian-American three-meat blend of pork, veal, and beef—are soft, light, and meaty in the middle, due to the measured amounts of Acme breadcrumbs and ricotta that Zolot throws into the mix before cooking. They're crowned with a snowfall of parmesan cheese and the eponymous sauce, and accompanied by a salad of dressed baby arugula and the garlickiest of garlic breads. For $9 a plate, they make for a hearty lunch or dinner.
“This is like grandma’s food, but modernized through a California lens,” says Zolot, who started to home in the perfect meatball sauce recipe during a year abroad in Rome, when he discovered the glory of San Marzano tomatoes. “The San Marzanos have a great balance of sweetness and acid,” he says. “They don’t need much more than some garlic, olive oil and spices.”
If the grandma side of the equation can be found in the sauce's subtle hit of chili and oregano, then the California side is represented by the veggie meatballs, which might take some hardcore meatballers by surprise. “I talk to my East Coast friends and tell them about the veggie balls, and they’re like, you’re doing what?” says Zolot. “But I tell them in California, people appreciate this kind of thing.”
Zolot did taste tests with his (West Coast, natch) vegetarian friends to land the perfect formula, containing quinoa, lentils, and panko bread crumbs. (I recommend crowning each bite with a little bit of the fresh ricotta cheese served beside them.) Zolot hopes to start serving turkey meatballs, and some off-menu specials soon. These may or may not include a chicken parm or a sausage and pepper sandwich down the line.
You can try out Red Sauce for dinner tonight outside Homestead, tomorrow at Soma Streat Food Park, and at Mission Dispatch next Wednesday. For additional future appearances check out the Schedule page on Zolot's website.