You know a place is confident about its meatballs when the counter person offers up free samples to first-time customers.
I guess meatballs may seem like an easy-to-overlook item to some people. After all, supermarkets and food purveyors sell millions of premade frozen ones every year, probably enough to provide everyone in the country with a nice bouncy, rubbery ball, because that's what they're tantamount to, and it's not exactly super.
A good meatball, on the other hand, is much more of a challenge to find. It should be firm, but not rubbery. Moist, but not soggy. Have a slightly caramelized surface, but not be crusty. Be nicely seasoned, but not overly so. Contain a blend of meats -- usually beef and pork -- to add further flavor dimensions.
I can't tell you how many truly awful or just plain meh meatballs I've tasted over the years.
Eddie D's Famous Italian Sandwiches, though, meets all of the many meatball quality-control criteria. After tasting one, I wanted a sandwich of them, and that's what I had ($6.99), Parmigian-style (plus $1.50) with provolone and Parmesan cheese and plenty of a soulful, long-simmered marinara. And somebody at Eddie D's clearly remembers that God is in the details, because those mighty meatballs were served on the perfect roll, big and crusty and soft enough on the inside to help soak up the sauce.
The friend who went with me has somewhat simple tastes and was attracted by the simplicity of a Genoa salami "regular" ($6.99). Again, the perfect bun, plus lots of shredded lettuce and some tomato, but what really made the sandwich for her was the cup of vinaigrette that accompanied it that was perfect for drizzling on the sandwich's ample filling.
And while we're on the subject of ample: Italian wedding soup was served in a very large bowl ($4.99). Its broth was full-flavored, the shards of escarole plentiful, but while the tiny meatballs were also plentiful, I was a bit disappointed in both their flavor, which was bland, and texture, which was, yes, sort of rubbery. Surely there's some way those winning big meatballs can be adapted to a tiny format.
A side of potato salad ($1) also was a disappointment, with a decided commercial flavor.
Service, however, was wonderful. How could we not like a place that offered us free meatballs? Besides that, though, while Eddie D's is a counter-service place, it was clear where we should stand to order, and the woman behind the counter told us she'd bring it out, which eliminated any potential for confusion. We also noticed that she kept track of orders, letting people know how their food was progressing.
Atmospherewise, it's counter-service basic, neat but clean. But it's doubtful anybody would go to Eddie D's for the atmosphere. While the sides may have been a little lackluster, Eddie D's sandwiches most definitely were not. Are they really famous? No idea. But if they're not, they may be someday.
Las Vegas Review-Journal restaurant reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at 383-0474 or email her at hrinella@ reviewjournal.com.