The earliest historical mention of meatballs was in the late 4th century AD when Roman gourmet and lover of refined luxury, Marcus Gavius Apicius, wrote about minced meat and other meatball-type recipes. Through the ages, they’ve taken on a life of their own, garnering out-sized attention across fictional writing (think “Cloudy with a Chance Of…”), pop culture (“That’s a spicy meat-a-ball”), and most of all, your grandma Teresa who just so happened to make ziti and meatballs EVERY SINGLE FREAKING TIME you went to her house (ok, maybe that was just me).
In reality though, how could you ever turn down a well-made meatball?! That’s why I was so excited to take a short trip down to Bar Sugo in South Norwalk. The brainchild of owner and executive chef Pasquale Pascarella and his father Antimo (something tells me they have the right heritage for quality meatballs), Bar Sugo has the feel of a classic Italian restaurant–with a modern twist. The red and white tiled floors, and cutting board-resembling tabletops, along with the reoccurring theme of pigs adorning the bar and walls made me feel like I was inside a old-fashioned Italian butcher shop. And that’s not far from the truth.
Chef Pascarella is such a fan of fresh ingredients being used in Bar Sugo offerings, that he has brought the butchering and curing of his meat in-house. The fresh meat, along with ingredients from local farmer’s markets and the herbs he grows right out in front of the place, combine in Bar Sugo’s dishes for a taste and consistency that you need to have to believe.
I started off with the Prosciutto Wrapped Truffle Fries which ended up being my absolute favorite dish at Bar Sugo. It doesn’t get any better than thick, crispy French fries, wrapped in prosciutto, then sprinkled with Parmesan and fresh parsley. Maronna mia! (That’s “Oh my God” for all you non-Italians.)
Next up was the Pork Belly dish, a perfectly-crafted slab of pork over red lentil hummus, topped with broccoli rabe, and juxtaposed with a 60 minute poached egg just waiting to be cut open and partnered with the salty pork. Shortly after, came a Tuna Crudo dish I’ve been hearing a lot about–and for good reason. The fresh tuna paired beautifully with his lemon crema and caper-raisin-pine nut topping.
Then it was time for the main event. Pasquale, or Pat as the locals call him, saved the best for last. The famed Meatball Tasting, showcasing six of his fan-favorite meatballs. Every one of them had its own texture and taste, some had more understated notes and spices, and some just bursting with meaty flavor. In the end, the “Nonna’s” ball (beef, sausage, currant mostarda) and the “Sugo’s” ball (beef, veal, and pork, sage “two ways”) ended up being the standouts in my opinion–but I’d love to know what everyone else thinks.
Oh yeah, did I mention they make delicious drinks? The bartenders went to the Bar Sugo garden and picked fresh basil to make their La Basilico Giardino–a mix of gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, Cocchi Americano, Triple Sec, and adorned with this fresh basil. With a 4-6pm happy hour featuring half priced drinks across the board, tasty shareable dishes, and the freshest meatballs in town, there’s really no excuse to not give Bar Sugo a shot. It’s like a little piece of Italy in your own backyard.
Eats: Meatball Tasting
Prosciutto Wrapped Truffle Fries
Info: 102 Wall St Norwalk CT