Rochester isn't a rookie in the meatball game. When it comes to those spherical mounds of meat, we've got choices. Do you like your meatballs with a frosty can of Schmidt and a game of pinball? Go for Skylark Lounge on South Union. Those who want their meatballs on-the-go can visit The Meatball Co. food truck. How about meatballs with a classy cocktail? Orbs Restaurant & Bar (758 South Avenue) is now open in the South Wedge neighborhood to fill that niche.
Bob Caranddo is the man behind the meat(ball) at Orbs — and he'll be the first to admit he was inspired by the craze that swept downstate following the success of meatball-only restaurants like Manhattan's The Meatball Shop. Caranddo left Xerox 20 years ago for a move to Atlanta where he ran a large Ponderosa-type steak house. After moving back to Rochester, he wanted to open a place that was smaller and more unique.
A few months ago, while walking by the commercial building on South Avenue that now houses Orbs, it would have been hard to imagine a restaurant and bar working in the location. However, the renovated space is open, airy, and bright with a wraparound bar anchoring the back wall. A jumbo chalkboard behind the bar displays the daily food and drink specials. Caranddo grew up in Rochester and liked the look of the South Wedge — the neighborhood was one of the first he scouted when looking for his new eatery's home. A new concrete patio at the front of the building will eventually be open for outdoor dining.
The menu offers a variety of ways to get your meatball fix. The Baby Ball Starters ($6) come with your choice of Buffalo Chicken with Bleu Cheese Sauce, Asian Barbequed Beef, or Vegetarian Falafel balls. For the main course, you can choose from the Orbs Bowl ($11), Plate ($13), Heroes ($10), or Sliders (3 for $8). The Orbs Plate comes with three meatballs, sauce, focaccia, and your choice of two sides. The variety of meatballs to choose from on the current menu includes certified Angus beef with marinara, spicy pork in slow roasted arrabiata, chicken and brown rice in mushroom-herb gravy, and a baked tofu vegetable in mushroom gravy. Cheesy polenta, mac n' cheese, and sautéed greens with white beans make up just a few of the sides ($4 each) to choose from. Salads and dessert balls are also included on the bill of fare.
On Orbs summer cocktail list, The Swedge Collins ($8) is a stand out. The drink is a tart and refreshing mixture of grapefruit vodka, fresh lemon and lime juice, honey syrup, and soda. Caranddo's current favorite is his bar manager's take on the classic Cosmopolitan, the Bobbopolitan ($8) — comprised of house-made citrus vodka, triple sec, fresh lime juice, cranberry syrup, grapefruit bitters, and an orange peel.
According to Caranddo, the menu and variety of meatballs offered will constantly evolve and change. In a growing, transforming neighborhood like the South Wedge this just might be a good fit.
Orbs Restaurant & Bar is located at 758 South Avenue. It is open Tuesday through Thursday, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Menu prices range from $4 to $13. For more information, call 471-8569 or find Orbs on Facebook.
Chef Derek Pino of Rosario Pino's will instruct an "Italian Summer Entertaining" cooking class on Friday, July 25, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the store, 349 West Commercial Street in East Rochester. Tickets for class are $85 and can be purchased on Rosario Pino's website at rosariopinos.com.
Local boy does good! Hamlin native, and Top Chef Masters runner-up, Graeme Ritchie will cook for guests at Something Good is Brewing, a benefit for Meals on Wheels of Rochester on July 31 at the Genesee Brew House (25 Cataract Street). The event will run from 5:30 to 9 p.m. and will feature Ritchie's pub style dinner fare, cocktails, and live music. Tickets are $40 and can be purchased at VNSnet.com/brewing or by calling 787-8714.
Alexander Street's latest destination for Latin cuisine and craft cocktails, Ox and Stone (282 Alexander Street) is now open for lunch and dinner. Menu and cocktail offerings can be found on its website at oxandstone.com.
Abyssinia Ethiopian Restaurant has reopened at its 1657 Mount Hope Avenue location. Abyssiniarochester.com.
After initially indicating that they would only be closed in July, Fraîche Bistro and Dessert Bar (130 East Avenue) has permanently closed its doors.
The Henrietta location of Nick Tahou's Hots (3070 West Henrietta Road) has closed. You can still find nick Tahou's garbage plates at the 320 West Main Street location.
Sushi fusion restaurant Nikko (1 Capron Street) was unable to renew its lease and has been forced to close. Owners are currently seeking a new downtown location and are looking to open a sushi express kiosk. Check Nikko on Facebook for updates.
Chinese restaurant Wok With You (300 Park Point Drive), located in the Park Point at RIT complex is now closed.
Chow Hound is a food and restaurant news column. Do you have a tip? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.