Monday, February 17, 2014

The [Meatball] Joint Is Jumping!

Yeah. I am referring to Emporio- A Meatball Joint (942 Penn Avenue, 15222), an establishment anchoring one third of Sienna Mercato (with Mezzo and Il Tetto coming later in 2014, on the second and third floors respectively). And yeah, it is jumping!
My date and I headed there on Saturday night, arriving around 7:30. The wait for a table would have been between 30-45 minutes; we managed to find two seats at the bar, which is our preference anyway when we dine together. With three bartenders on deck, we were handled with care and precision throughout the entire experience.

Emporio has a very pleasant vibe. With the standard blend of interior textures one has come to expect from new establishments, Emporio's use of low lighting, wood, metal, and concrete works well. There are a variety of tables ranging from sizable booths to low and high tops; the three-sided bar seats over twenty comfortably with views of many televisions. The front end of Emporio has a massive garage door opening to a terrace, which certainly will draw patrons from Penn Avenue in warmer temperatures. Over my time spent there, I became fond of the many quirky touches that pepper the atmosphere. For instance, the industrial chic cable and pulley lighting fixtures with their throwback light bulbs are quite clever, as are the "vintage" water decanters and glasses. To complete the pleasant vibe, everything from Mumford and Sons to Bob Marley to TLC played in the background (we may or may not have made a toast to Lisa "Left-Eye" Lopes during "Waterfalls").
The drink menus and my Salty Dog ($8, vodka, fresh grapefruit, salted rim)
The menu features thirty-two beers on tap (along with a handful by the bottle), several red and white wines, and many handcrafted cocktails (like my tasty Salty Dog pictured above); it also features seasonal Italian Ice and Italian Cream Sodas ($4 virgin, $7 w/ vodka), and a variety of San Pellegrino ($2.5). In addition, Emporio has some notable menu features including gluten free and vegetarian options, daily risotto, a meatball of the day, housemade Italian dressing, and housemade buns.
Italian and Rocket
We started with Greens ($5), which are served in sizable metal bowls. The Italian (iceberg, tomato, olives, green peppers, pepperocini, cucumber, and croutons) was rather humdrum; the Rocket (arugula, tomato, roasted almonds, and fresh mozzarella) was the clear winner of the two with both texture and flavor that exploded upon taste. We tried both salads with the housemade Italian dressing, a light blend of balsamic, oil, and spice that was delicious and should be bottled for sale.
Meatball Sliders ($3) clockwise from bottom left: Spicy Pork w/ creamy parmesan, Chicken w/ arribiatta, Classic Beef w/ sunday gravy, Vegetarian w/ pesto, and Bacon Cheese Burger w/ gov't cheese and pickle
I don't normally get too into meatballs. However, I approached this concept with an open mind (and an open mouth I suppose), only to have a satisfying experience. The Meatball Sliders are served individually on a housemade toasted bun with any sauce of choice. We particularly enjoyed the very fresh and aromatic pesto, the smooth creamy parmesan, and the predictable, yet delectable gov't cheese. As for the meatballs, the Bacon Cheese Burger was fun, the Vegetarian tasted great, and the Spicy Pork was memorable. I would recommend sampling a few Meatball Sliders on an initial visit to Emporio, as it is nice way to try the many combination possibilities without overdoing it and without commitment.
Meatball Grinders ($9) top to bottom: Classic Beef w/ sunday gravy and provolone and Bacon Cheese Burger w/ gov't cheese and pickles
I pestered the two guys next to me for their opinions regarding their selections. They were satisfied, and actually enjoyed the housemade Grinder buns more than the Slider buns. As you can see, three meatballs come on the Grinder- a much bigger commitment than the Slider.

Although we did not indulge in dessert on this visit, Emporio offers a variety of interesting options, most of which are paired with ice cream from Turkey Hill Dairy (Lancaster County). I've had their ice cream several times, and it's very good.

In the upcoming months, I look forward to seeing how Sienna Mercato develops. With Emporio- A Meatball Joint at its base, I would anticipate nothing short of success and an upward extension of a joint that's jumping!

(3.25 stars, 3.25/4)

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