ANTHONY’S RISTORANTE AND BANQUET CENTER, 4990 State Road (Drexeline Shopping Center), Drexel Hill.  (Retry)

As a rule, I don’t give second chances in the annual food hunt. When my goal is to visit 45 places in 45 days, the last priority is circling back to one where I had a bad experience. And, while I get no pleasure ripping anyone’s business (the point of this search is to praise excellence), I always call them as I see them.

So, when I had a substandard meatball sandwich at this popular Delco spot, I was inclined to put it in the rearview mirror. However . . .

I got a slew of feedback on this one. Most of it said I had missed the mark. That I had hit Anthony’s on a bad day. That I had erred in trying their takeout spot rather than the adjoining sit-down restaurant. Say this much for Anthony’s, it has a loyal fan base.

So, for the first time in 12 years of the Food Hunt, I went back, sneaking into Anthony’s on a Wednesday night to give it another try. I sat at the bar, ordering a Peroni and the Meatball Grande appetizer. For $12, I got a baseball-sized meatball, served over a salad with a dollop of ricotta cheese. The kindly bartender even brought over a loaf of crispy Italian bread and a plate of zesty long hots.

And the verdict? Pleasantly tasty. A soft, cheesy meatball that would go just fine on a warm plate of linguini. Not as complex or original or mind-blowing as some I’ve had during this Meatball Madness Hunt, but far from the worst I’ve tried as well. It settles in right in the middle – which is also what it did after I ate it.

Look, I can’t ignore my previous visit. While the sit-down side of Anthony’s cooked up a mighty fine meatball, the adjoining takeout side had real problems the day I was there. Someone needs to ensure a more-uniform product.

But, just judging my second-chance visit, it was perfectly fine. A nice belly warmer on a chilly night. And the bartender was a heck of a conversationalist as well.

Score: 76/100

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