Best Meatball Dishes In Tampa Bay

February 24, 2013 8:00 AM

(Photo: Elizabeth Dougherty)

Like many of the world’s greatest mysteries, the origin of meatballs may never be known. While Italians and Swedes both count the culinary treat as unique to their own cultures, one can find the same inspiration behind the Persian koftas, as well as in different versions across the Indian sub-continent, Southeast Asia and in places as far and isolated as Japan. Of course, America had to add its own spin on the famous spheres by putting them between slices of bread to create a lunchtime favorite: meatball subs and sliders. No matter your cultural preference, residents of the Tampa Bay area can consider themselves lucky to count so many yummy and affordable meatball restaurants among the local gastronomic répertoire. Let’s take advantage of them this year for National Meatball Day on March 9th, 2013.

Delco’s Original
1737 Main St.
Dunedin, FL 34698
(727) 475-1992

For one of the most talked-about meatball sandwiches in Tampa, don’t miss Delco’s in Dunedin. The walls proudly display regalia from Philadelphia sports teams, a testament to the owners’ dedication to producing authentic Philly subs. The Amoroso rolls are shipped in directly from that region. However, that’s not the shop’s sole focus, as Delco’s also offers delicious meatball subs with a choice of provolone, American or mozzarella cheese for $6. The menu similarly includes a wide selection of salads, burgers, hoagies, hot dogs and steak sandwiches. Beware, however, that this restaurant accepts cash only, so come prepared. Fortunately, the relatively reasonable prices won’t slim down your wallet too much. As for your waistline, that’s another question.

Pizza Fusion at Skypoint
777 N. Ashley Drive
Tampa, FL 33602
(813) 463-1600

Pizza Fusion continues to revolutionize the Tampa pizza scene with its affordable and high-quality pies. It has also become famous for making much of the menu with organic ingredients, plus providing gluten-free options, a true rarity for Italian restaurants. While the primary focus remains on its namesake, Pizza Fusion also lists mini-meatball sliders on its appetizer menu. Served with a unique tomato sauce, they come seasoned and cooked to perfection. Don’t forget to try the pizza when you come, for the crust is delightful, baked to a glowing golden color and of a perfectly crunchy texture. A modern and clean interior provides an oasis in downtown Tampa for a relaxing meal, with plenty of visual stimuli to watch out of the floor-to-ceiling windows.

Related: Best Mediterranean Cuisine in Tampa Bay

Carmine’s Seventh Avenue
1802 E. 7th Ave.
Tampa, FL 33605
(813) 248-3834

Another Tampa landmark in the Ybor City neighborhood, Carmine’s became well known around the Bay area for its excellent deviled crab and Cuban sandwiches. Aside from its specialties, the Cuban-themed restaurant also makes a mean meatball sandwich. Perfectly seasoned and cooked, the meatballs come hot out of the oven, accompanied by the house’s delicious marinara sauce. Somehow they miraculously stay anchored to the sandwich despite their impressive size. Connoisseurs of this type of sandwich know how rarely this happens, and in this case, perhaps it’s due to the fact that Carmine’s toasts its famous Cuban bread to serve as the bun of all of its sandwiches, this one included.

The Spaghetti Warehouse
1911 13th St.
Tampa, FL 33605
(813) 248-1720

The Spaghetti Warehouse has occupied the same historic Ybor Square location for decades. Originally built in 1886 as a cigar factory, the building that now houses the restaurant also contains a full-size replica of an Ybor City street car. With a website like, one can bet Spaghetti Warehouse prides itself on its dish of the same name. The spaghetti and meatballs comes with three hand-rolled balls that blend both beef and pork, baked in the oven and then simmered with a homemade sauce. For a casual Italian restaurant, the prices seem appropriate, at only $7.29 for lunch and $10.49 for dinner. In the 40 years since the chain first opened in Texas, the company has suffered some tough times over the past few years, closing locations in several cities. However, it seems the Tampa location is here to stay. Some of the more adventurous menu items have come under scrutiny from diners, so it’s probably best to stick to the classics.

Related: 2012 Tasted Good: The Best New Restaurants That Opened In Tampa Bay

Brocato’s Sandwich Shop
5021 E. Columbus Drive
Tampa, FL 33619
(813) 248-9977

A second self-proclaimed contender for the optimal deviled crab of Tampa Bay, Brocato’s menu resembles those of the other sandwich shops profiled in this article. The meatball sandwiches come with fried peppers in a choice of three sizes: six, nine or 12 inches. All sizes come with a copious amount of meat, so you’ll be sure not to go hungry. The prices may seem a bit inflated, at $8 to $10.50 per sandwich, but this is because they include chips and a drink on the side. In addition, Brocato’s sells some conventional area favorites such as Cuban sandwiches, critically acclaimed as some of the best in the city, and less widespread creations like the stuffed potatoes, filled with meat and fried to a golden brown. One can also experiment with chicken parmesan, buffalo chicken, Philly steak (with filet mignon) sandwiches and the homemade empanadas. Always crowded, be sure to go on a day when you won’t feel constrained by your lunch break so you can enjoy the food without stress.

Aaron Phillips has experience in marketing and journalism. Recently back to his hometown, he’s excited to discover and share what Tampa has to offer. His work can be found at