I have been called a sandwich snob. That accusation is false. However, I do believe in something called sandwich theory. This is my quest to find the greatest sandwiches in Madison. Send me your sandwich recommendations by email or on Twitter or Instagram.
Casetta Kitchen and Counter is an Italian-American deli in the Network222 building on West Washington Avenue just off the Square. The word Casetta, according to the restaurant’s website, means “little house” in Italian — and with the grill right behind the counter, you did get the feeling of being in a friend’s kitchen, even with the hip, urban atmosphere. It was bustling during the lunch hour when I stopped to try the Monday meatball sandwich special.
The sandwich came on a toasted hero roll and the crunchiness helped offset the texture of the meatballs and tomato sauce. There was a little sweetness to the bread as well which settled some of the acidity from the tomato sauce.
The meatballs were a little bland. They were cooked well and had a good firm consistency, but I just couldn’t detect a whole lot of seasoning in the meatball itself. Luckily, the tomato sauce really made up for it. It was fresh, it provided both sweetness and acidity, and it was wonderfully seasoned. Add melted mozzarella cheese and a sprinkle of Parmesan on top, and boom, it hits on all levels of flavor.
The meatball distribution was a little imbalanced on the inside. My first couple bites were mostly bread before getting to my first meatball, and the last meatball escaped out the back door with a few bites to go. One big prop, though: The sandwich was wrapped first in foil, then butcher’s paper. Sealing it all in like this helped get the cheese nice and melty, softened the bread a little and helped maintain sandwich integrity.
Sandwiches come in full and half sizes. There were five or six meatballs in my full sandwich, which was $10 (a half goes for $6). Downtown is always a bit pricier than the rest of the city, but Casetta is in line with other restaurants nearby. The full size did fill me up, and I could see the half hitting the spot for those who favor a lighter lunch.
Casetta’s daily speciality sandwiches are limited in supply, so when they’re out, they’re out. Almost everyone in line when I was there got the meatball special, and I can see why. The freshness of the makings were fantastic and packaged nicely to make sure it was hot and melty. My brother-in-law makes a solid meatball sandwich, and this sandwich was right up there with his homemade version. I’m excited to give the rest of the sandwiches on the menu a try.