Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sometimes Homemade Just Isn't Enough

While it has been more than a year since anything about Marie's Restaurant in Wadsworth, Ohio has shown up here on the blog, that doesn't mean that it has been that long since I returned for a meal. Often times I end up getting the same thing on different visits and once I've written about a particular menu item, there really isn't a need to re-hash it again (unless it has dramatically changed). The trouble is that since Marie's isn't all that close to where I live, I only consider going when I am either a) craving their pizza or b) already in Wadsworth visiting with my grandmother. On this particular visit, instead of our semi-yearly visit to Miss Molly's Tea Room to celebrate my mother's birthday, she indicated that she'd like to go to Marie's instead. This was doubly good for my grandmother, who has certain food restrictions, because their menu does indeed offer some items she can eat without issue.

When Marie's first relocated to its present location in the northern end of Wadsworth, expecting to find an empty table at 11:30 AM on a Saturday would have been a fruitless endeavor. Fortunately, as happens with all popular restaurants, after a few months the hysteria dies down and you start to see more realistic numbers during the lunch and dinner rush. We arrived today and found a rather sparse crowd at 11:30 and by the time we left an hour later, it was busier, but certainly not packed.

Since I neglected to take a photograph of the front of Marie's restaurant on my last two write-ups, I thought I would include one now:

Front of Marie's Restaurant in Wadsworth, Ohio
While the pizza has been my staple menu item for years, today I wasn't particularly feeling the love. I've had good success with their chicken Parmesan sandwich before, but wanted to try a twist today and decided to go with the homemade meatball sandwich instead. It seemed like a real no-brainer since the buns were homemade, the meatballs were homemade, and the marinara was homemade. Having already established that I like the buns and the marinara because of the chicken Parmesan sandwich, it seemed that the only unknown part of this equation were the meatballs. After having had a pretty bad meatball recently at Bellacino's Pizza and Grinders, I figured that Marie's couldn't be worse.

After placing our orders and dropping off our drinks, our server surprised us with a basket of garlic breadsticks and marinara sauce:

Garlic Bread and Marinara
I had forgotten that breadsticks came complimentary with our meal. They were made from the same homemade dough that Marie's uses for their pizza. Here was a shot of my breadstick, sauced:

Shot of my Garlic Bread
I've written about the breadsticks in a past entry, so I won't belabor the point of repeating myself. I'll just stick with ... these were pretty good.

Shortly after finishing the breadsticks, our lunches arrived. Here was a shot of my meatball sandwich and potato chips:

Meatball Sandwich Platter
Hidden at the rear of the plate was a standard dill pickle spear. All sandwiches come with potato chips, and you can upgrade to another side for an additional fee. Obviously, I just decided to go with the standard potato chips today. Both the pickle and chips were of the grocery store variety and didn't go out of their way to impress me. At the same time, the flavor was precisely what I expected from this level of food product.

The meatball sandwich, however, was definitely worth talking about. I guess I had assumed that a meatball sandwich would be served on a roll-style bun; something with a spine that connected the two halves together. Marie's version was served on the same bun that the rest of the sandwiches utilized. For chicken Parmesan, this was fine since the fried chicken patty sat nicely between the split roll.

As you can see in this next shot, melted mozzarella cheese partially covered the ROUND meatballs:

Melty Mozzarella Cheese
And here was a shot of the sandwich, bisected:

Side Shot of the Meatball Sandwich
Because of the roundness of the meatballs, taking a bite meant not only trying to get a mouthful of sandwich, but also preventing the filling from falling out onto the plate below. In terms of "Sandwich Science," either slice the meatballs in half so they don't roll, or put the round meatballs in a hoagie bun. That criticism aside, how did it taste? From a flavor standpoint, it was quite good. All the elements worked pretty well together. The meatball flavor was prominent and the acidity from the marinara sauce added a nice counterbalance to the fattiness of the meat. Sadly, the meatballs were a bit dry. I think that made the meatball a little bit tougher to chew than it should have been. Would I order the sandwich again? Yes, I would. Based on my other visits, I'm willing to consider the overcooked meatballs an anomaly.

Another oddity that came out on my plate hidden underneath the potato chips was this lone, strangely-shaped Jo Jo:

An Oddly Shaped Jo-Jo
For those not from the northeast Ohio area, a Jo Jo is kind of like a potato wedge that may or may not be coated and then normally fried (and they can be baked, too). Somehow this misshapen spud managed to sneak its way onto my plate. Either none of us were in the mood for a potato or its uneven size made us all too scared to touch it as it sat lonely on my side plate. I have had Jo Jo's at Marie's before and they were at least on par with the rest of the Jo Jo universe.

While I still maintain that Marie's menu was unnecessarily enlarged to appeal to a wider audience, at least the Italian staples that made them a Wadsworth institution have remained solid and still tasty. While I have heard others state that they think Marie's has declined over the years, the food and service has always remained pretty consistent during my visits. While their new location doesn't quite have the charm of the original, the food still manages to take me back to my high school days when I'd stop in for some Italian American treats.

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