Levittown-raised Dan Shea has bounced from here to there over his 50-plus years — Jersey Shore DJ, rock bassist, sometime actor and voiceover artist. His latest bounce: meatballs.
Shea and longtime friend Morgan Harris opened Meatball U in downtown West Chester around Thanksgiving.
The region has had other meatball specialists before, notably Marabella’s Meatball Co., which ran for several years in the mid-'00s.
This business, based on the recipe of Shea’s stepfather, Richard Quintano, is actually 35 years in the making. In the summer of 1985, in a mad dash of ambition, Shea paid $150 to Avalon for a vendor’s license.
Shea planned to make and sell meatball sandwiches and sodas out of his Ford Bronco. But he never pulled the trigger. More interested in partying, “life happened,” he said. Rolling meatballs took a back seat to rock and roll.
Until much more recently, when Harris, who was the bouncer at the Princeton in Avalon when Shea was the DJ, stepped forward and reminded his friend of his dream.
Harris expanded Shea’s initial idea of opening a small stand when they found the former pizzeria at 30 S. High St., near West Chester University. The proximity factored into the shop’s college motif (pennants, lots of lights, wood paneling, late hours three nights a week), and the menu grew to include pasta and salads.
It all comes round to the meatball, though. Chef Cirilo Rodrigues makes the standard beef, as well as chicken, sausage (a 50-50 mix of sweet and hot), an Impossible vegetarian version, and two specials (they’re now chicken marsala and Mom’s meatloaf, which taste exactly as you’d expect).
These are baller balls. The basic sandwich ($8.99) includes three balls on an 8-inch Liscio’s roll that’s been split, slathered in butter and garlic, and toasted in the oven. Red sauce (cooked the day before, to cut the acidity) and mozzarella go on top. There’s a 12-inch version with five balls for $13.99. The two-meatball-topped ziti ($15.99) comes out in a cast-iron crock. In a nod to wings, they make small chicken balls and serve them with sauce, carrots, and celery.
Hours are 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday, and 11 a.m.-3 a.m. Thursday-Saturday. (Late-night takeout is conducted in the vestibule, not in the dining room.)