By Glen Macnow

ALTOMONTE’S ITALIAN MARKET, 85 North York Road, Warminster

We traveled to 45 places in this year’s food hunt. Through Center City, South Philly, Chinatown, all the collar counties, plus Jersey and Delaware. We ate meatballs at upscale restaurants, food trucks and hole-in-the-wall dives. We enjoyed varieties from several regions of Italy, as well as Sweden, Asia, Mexico, Greece and Ireland. We even survived octopus and vegan meatballs.

To be honest, we were meatball-weary by the end, ready to move on to the Finals on May 7, 10-1, at Delaware Park Racetrack and Casino. You should come and try all the best – for free.

Ahh, but one last trip was in store before we put down the forks. So many food fans had praised the deliciousness found at Altomonte’s, an Italian market and deli with two Bucks County locations, that we felt the need to get in the car one more time and drive up to Warminster.

I’m so glad we did. Altomonte’s has almost a cult following up there, and we discovered why. Their Meatball Parm was the single best sandwich we ate over the course of this year’s food hunt. And Altomonte’s will be invited to compete in the Meatball Madness Finals.

The brilliance, fittingly, starts in the meat, which is ground on-site. It’s a blend of sirloin beef, veal and pork butt – as well as 10 percent chicken. Why? “The chicken adds a new flavor,” says chef Carlos Gomez. “The more flavor the better, right?”

Gomez also soaks the meatball’s breadcrumbs in chicken broth rather than milk because, he says, it’s tastier. He tosses in the normal ingredients – garlic, parsley, grated pecorino Romano.

And? “The secret is love and passion,” Gomez says. He must have a lot of love, because he hand-rolls 1,500 pounds of meat three times a week. He tried using a machine, but didn’t like the texture of the finished product.

The sandwich comes on a crusty seeded roll that’s made at Altomonte’s own bakery. The meatballs are light and fluffy, but sturdy enough not to fall apart. And they’re juicy because of the chicken broth.

You can buy a sandwich to go (there are a few tables outside), or buy the meatballs frozen or in jars of sauce. But you should definitely buy them.

Score: 88/100

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