Never underestimate the power of a properly made meatball sandwich. It’s not a sexy sandwich, as it’s pretty much designed to explode, wilt, and melt into your mouth. But with the right components — a bright marinara, light but rich meatballs, enough melted cheese to cover but not smother, and a properly toasted bun — it’s inhalable magic. The meatball sandwich at the newly opened Geno’s is properly made. At $10 on a roll or $12 on a hoagie, it’s a little pricey on the face of it, but the flavor justifies the outlay.
Geno’s, a new shop from the owners of the Lyndale Tap House, seems to be ripping a page right out of the Mucci’s book: Serve up old-school Italian-American favorites using good ingredients, and reap all the goodwill and nostalgia that exists for a much-degraded, much-abused classic cuisine that has in recent years been a repository for laziness and straight-from-the-food-service-bag cookery.
Our Italian Club ($13) was similarly good. It wasn’t a sandwich so much as it was a brick of thinly cut and interwoven meats and cheeses, but it was neither heavy in flavor nor unbalanced. Everything arrived in a carefully considered proportion that added up to a classic Italian-American sandwich experience.
When we order Cannoli ($6) for dessert, we expect and hope for one substantial, crispy shell stuffed with a sweetened ricotta, ends sprinkled in bits of pistachios. (The cannoli of our dreams came, once upon a time, from a deli called Capone’s in Somerville, Mass., but we’re fond of the ones at Cossetta’s, too.) What we got at Geno’s had a lot of the right elements: four tiny cannoli, shells in fact quite crispy, a sprinkling of miniature chocolate chips (eh) and pistachio bits (yay!), a heavy drizzling of moderately good chocolate sauce (eh, again). The inclusion of a central dollop of filling and a sliced strawberry was a pleasant bonus, since strawberry + filling + chocolate is a really tasty combination. The dish was definitely an American riff on the cannoli concept, but ultimately it was a strong value for six bucks.
If Geno’s has a problem to wrestle with, it’s that its food isn’t cheap, and we’ve been taught to expect that typical Italian-American food should be as easy on the wallet as it is hard on the stomach. But if people will buckle down and pay quality prices, they’ll get quality food in return.
Italian-American Sandwich Shop in Southeast Minneapolis
12 4th St SE
Minneapolis, MN 55414
OWNER: Gene Suh
Sun-Thu 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Fri-Sat 11 a.m.- 2 a.m.
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED?: No
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / No
ENTREE RANGE: $10-$15
NOISE LEVEL: Moderate
PARKING: Limited street parking