It’s a safe bet that a restaurant specializing in craft meatballs won’t have a standout vegetarian dish, but The Sicilian Butcher is happy to defy expectations. Buried in the menu, you’ll find eggplant parm balls ($16) fashioned from roasted eggplant, fragranced with garlic, shallots and basil, brightened with mint and fortified with Auricchio provolone, Parmigiano-Reggiano and mozzarella cheeses, then bound together with eggs.
After the mixture is ground and formed into balls, the orbs are coated in bread crumbs, fried lightly to brown and then finished in the oven, says owner Joey Maggiore, son of Phoenix culinary luminary Tomaso Maggiore. The finished product has a similar sturdy texture to, and looks like, its meaty cousin.
The Sicilian Butcher offers six house-made pastas along with creamy polenta, saffron risotto, a muffaletta bun or salad as a perch for the vegetable-centric balls. Most popular is the creste de gallo, a tubular curved pasta with a rooster’s crest (also described as pasta with a mohawk) and mafalde, a wide ribbon pasta.
Finally, the sauce: Maggiore favors pairing the Parm-laced balls with a simple Arrabbiata sauce of San Marzano tomatoes and basil sparked with Calabrian chiles. “Customers like it with cream sauce, but I think you lose the flavor of the eggplant,” he says.
THE SICILIAN BUTCHER
15530 N. Tatum Blvd., Phoenix