Short Order: Palle by Moretti

Bailey Trask
Beef Marsala meatball with risotto and house sangria

Memories are short. For a month in 2014, Joe Milano entertained the idea of naming his Jury Room replacement Balls. After a bit of public backlash, Balls became1831 Tavern, a short-lived Downtown restaurant with a less anatomical name. Two years later, Moretti's of Arlington owner Tim Moretti and his wife, Jami, have opened their fast-casual version of a meatball-centric restaurant, this time with the Italian form of the name balls: Palle.

Palle by Moretti, smack dab in the middle of a new mixed-use development near Grandview, adds to the increasingly common build-your-own meal concept, serving up quality—and even delicious—fare in generous portions, if you order correctly.

Choosing a meal at Palle often comes with trepidation. Not every ingredient pairs naturally together (pesto sauce and a lime-laden rice, for example), so leaving a chef out of the process can unearth dishes without balance. The general idea is to select a type of meatball (available by the pair, naturally), a sauce and an accompanying pasta, starch or vegetable ($12). The meatballs can be served atop or on the side, and for an extra dollar can be topped with “a family jewel” (aka a fried egg). The key is to choose selections that work within a single dish, otherwise multiple plates are served simultaneously, creating a haphazard dining experience.

Winning combinations include no-brainers, like tomato sauce over pasta, and richer dishes, such as beef meatballs with Marsala sauce over a daily risotto. Palle's risotto game is on point, with ingredients like goat cheese, lemon and green beans mixed within the rich rice.

The restaurant has hits and misses. During one visit, the Tater Tots were crisp on the outside, but barely cooked on the inside. On another visit, though, the wedding soup ($5) was nothing short of incredible: Egg, tiny meatballs and hearty pieces of carrots met wilted greens in a starter that is often phoned in elsewhere. And Palle's polenta fries ($5) were perfectly executed. This sizeable stack of fried polenta bricks was both tender and crisp. An overwhelming appetizer for two people, this starter would be a delightful option to soak up some booze during happy hour. (And there's no shortage of a built-in happy hour audience in the area.)

Speaking of libations, the restaurant serves up plenty of local drinks and features two styles of tasty sangria ($5–$7 per glass), as well as a $9 build-your-own Old-Fashioned. Personally, I like my cocktails like I like my meals: Leave the ingredient decisions up to the professionals.

Palle by Moretti

1021 W. Fifth Ave., Fifth by Northwest, 614-421-2255