The Ultimate: Spaghetti and Meatballs

Photograph by Anthony Tieuli

Photograph by Anthony Tieuli

Long dismissed as an item for the kids’ menu, this Italian-American staple has officially secured a place at the grownups’ table. Variations of the dish have cropped up all over town, at traditional red-sauce joints and casual taverns alike. Dismissing versions that pair meatballs with nontraditional pasta shapes like rigatoni and pappardelle, we sought a true classic — and found it at the South End’s Stella. Chef Evan Deluty’s homemade spaghetti, soft yet substantial, perfectly accompanies a rich, smooth tomato sauce. Add a few meatballs, sprinkle on some grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, top it off with chopped parsley, and match the entire meal with a glass of vino rosso. Now that’s amore. 1525 Washington St., Boston, 617-247-7747, bostonstella.com

Tavolo **** The two giant beef-and-veal meatballs rightfully deserve — and receive — their own plate, but a heavy hand with tomato sauce overwhelmed the pasta. 1918 Dorchester Ave., Dorchester Center, 617-822-1918, tavoloristorante.com.

Trattoria di Monica *** 1/2 Although few restaurants can out-romance the North End’s tiny Trattoria di Monica, the spicy plum tomato sauce was slightly overwhelming. 67 Prince St., Boston, 617-720-5472, monicasboston.com.

Grotto ** While we’d gladly order a side of the three big and beefy meatballs any day, Grotto lost points for using dried — not homemade — noodles. 37 Bowdoin St., Boston, 617-227-3434, grottorestaurant.com.