Mr. Meatball Italian Food Products has created a whole new market -- literally -- on central Ohio's burgeoning East Broad Street corridor.

Owners Don and Wendy Gullatta, who live nearby, are offering homemade Italian meats and other specialty grocery-store items in a small standalone building at 61 E. Broad St. in Pataskala, just west of state Route 310.

"There are not a lot of choices out here," Don Gullatta said.

When opening the market, they simultaneously closed the retail portion of the Mr. Meatball facility at 3716 Cleveland Ave. in Columbus, where the prepared Italian foods still are made, citing safety concerns for customers and staff members.

At the Columbus facility, the company uses 350 pounds to 450 pounds of ground beef, plus eggs, bread crumbs and spices, to turn out 6,000 meatballs at once. Those numbers can triple during the holiday season.

A machine does the rolling, spitting out 130 meatballs per minute.

Gullatta said it's a simple meatball built with 81-19 ground beef (referring to meat-to-fat percentages) and balanced seasonings.

"I think it's the ratio of spices," he said. "We get a lot of comments about the garlickiness of them. (Customers) like the garlic."

Gullatta said the business serves dozens of wholesale accounts, among which are 30 to 40 restaurants, in central Ohio.

The business is about more than meatballs, though.

Lasagna, chicken Parmesan, cabbage rolls, stuffed green peppers -- all $5.99 per individual serving -- are among the prepared meals offered at the Pataskala store. Some are sold refrigerated, and others are frozen; reheating instructions are included with each option.

Mr. Meatball also makes a lot of tomato sauce, up to 60 gallons a week, which is available by the quart or gallon at the store. The shop also has limited grocery options, such as olive oil, dried pasta, cheeses, cold cuts and locally made desserts and bread.

Don Gullatta's father, Phil, purchased Mr. Meatball in 1995 from Angelo Casuccio, who was believed to have founded the company shortly after returning home from serving in the Korean War in the 1950s.

Phil Gullatta chose Santina Foods, in honor of his mother, as the name of the corporate parent company.

Don and Wendy Gullatta took over the business five years ago.

Don Gullatta's mother, Dorothy, still makes whatever soup fits her fancy for the day, including Italian wedding, chicken noodle, sausage and zucchini, as well as pasta fagioli. Phil Gullatta still drives delivery routes.

Noting the major housing and commercial development already in the works east of Interstate 270, Don Gullatta said he thinks Mr. Meatball is poised to fill a "nice niche."

"It's about to explode," he said of Pataskala and its vicinity.

Mr. Meatball's hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays and closed Sundays and Mondays. For more information, call 740-919-4472.


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