PIZZERIA STELLA, 2nd and Lombard, South Philadelphia

A few years back, former Inky crime writer George Anastasia and I met at this Stephen Starr restaurant every few weeks to work on the book we co-authored, “The Ultimate Book of Gangster Movies.” We’d dive into Margherita pizza and grilled octopus and red wine and debate “Pulp Fiction.” Great times.

Somehow, we never got around to trying the “Polpette” appetizer, which is Stella’s wood-roasted meatballs. Big mistake.

For $11 you get two lacrosse-ball sized meatballs of beef, veal and pork, drenched in a savory red sauce. They are infused with garlic, parsley, oregano and an array of other spices, as well as crumbs from Stella’s own homemade bread, which have been soaked in milk.  There’s ricotta cheese, as well as Grano Podano cheese which, we are told, is comparable to parmesan but comes from cows fed a better diet. Okay, we’ll buy that.

Stephen Starr tends to do everything topnotch and the Polpette, or meatballs by any other name, are no exception. You should go to Stella for everything, really, but don’t ignore this item at the top of the menu. We’ve got a real contender here for the contest.

Score: 87/100