Classic Italian With a Modern Twist
For the Love of Italian
If you’ve been in Southwest Florida for any length of time and you love Italian food, chances are you know, or know of, Sal Basile. The longtime restaurateur is part of the brains behind The Saucy Meatball in Gateway Estates, Fort Myers; his son Alex is the other half.
At the age of 10, Sal was putting slices on the counter of his family’s pizza parlor in New Jersey and later mastered the art of pizza making at a shop in Brooklyn. His first restaurant partnership came at the age of 18; Giuseppi’s, located at Miner’s Corner in Fort Myers. However, he might best be known for Taste of New York.
Sal has opened numerous successful establishments over the last four decades and is now poised to hand over his restaurant reigns to Alex, who started making pizzas in one of Sal’s restaurants at the age of 12. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Adding a Twist
The Saucy Meatball is Alex’s first big project. It’s modern with a younger vibe but still has that friendly neighborhood feel. It may not be classic Italian in appearance, but you’ll find classic Italian food from family recipes, along with dishes that have decadent and fun twists.
Take for instance the Drunken Sicilian Pizza; you’ll need a knife and fork to eat it. A perfectly cooked pie is layered with mozzarella, ricotta, bacon, chicken, and tomato, and then topped with rigatoni in vodka sauce. Pasta on top of pizza? Carb lovers will think they’ve died and gone to heaven.
Keeping up with times, The Saucy Meatball also has a gluten-free menu and several more healthful options such as the Oriental Salmon Salad. It is a generous bed of mixed greens tossed in a mandarin ginger dressing, sprinkled with almonds, pineapple, and mandarin oranges. Then it’s topped with a perfectly grilled piece of salmon.
One of many things about this restaurant that stands out to Sal is, “When you have a smaller place like this you have the ability to really watch the food. It’s great for quality control.” Alex adds, “It all goes out hot and fresh. It doesn’t sit in a window allowing the cream to change or the sauces to thicken up.”
Happy Hour & Saucy Snacks
Happy Hour is now seven days a week from 2-6:30, with drink specials and Saucy Snacks. Many of the 14 beers on tap are local or from Florida, the wine list has much more than Italian brands, and the creative cocktails are made from wine based spirits.
Alex drew on his experience bartending at their sister restaurant, Two Meatballs in the Kitchen, to come up with items like a fresh Lemongrass Mojito. The lemongrass comes from the restaurant’s herb garden.
A favorite is the refreshing Limoncello Martini topped with prosecco. New to the lineup is red sangria made with Angry Orchard Rosé Cider; it’s an all-day sipper.
Save Room for Dessert
The portions are generous and even if you don’t have room, you must make room for dessert. The bread pudding changes often, however, ours was made with chocolate chip cookie dough and a sinful Nutella ganache, with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream; WOW.
Cannoli Chips is another WOW dessert. A huge bowl of cannoli cream filling is surrounded by pieces of crispy cannoli shells dusted in powdered sugar for dipping. It’s perfect for sharing.
Keeping Things Going
The Saucy Meatball is like two restaurants in one, with a takeout counter in the front serving slices and sandwiches for lunch, and the full-service restaurant with outdoor seating in the back. The kitchen can accommodate catering, even on a busy night. The restaurant will soon hit its one-year mark and there are plans to add a homemade pasta station among other things.
About stepping into the shoes of his popular father, Alex says, “It’s bittersweet. He has helped us and worked hard for us our whole lives. It’s good to know he will always be here, but it’s time for him to finally relax a little. It’s in my blood to keep things going.”
12401 Commerce Lake Drive, Fort Myers