Here, Eat This

Houston's Best Sandwiches: Meatball with Cheese at Mandola's Deli

It's not easy to find a great meatball sub in Houston, but the Meatball with Cheese at Madola's Deli is mama-mia good.
It's not easy to find a great meatball sub in Houston, but the Meatball with Cheese at Madola's Deli is mama-mia good. Photo by Jeff Balke
We are in search of Houston's best sandwiches because we love sandwiches and we love Houston!

Walking into the wood-paneled interior of Mandola's Deli at 4105 Leeland is a bit like walking through a time machine. The tile floors and small four-seater tables look like the probably haven't changed in decades. Other than occasional changes to the University of Houston memorabilia that covers the walls, this place is a classic. So is the food.

Even though it has "deli" in the name, Mandola's serves up some simple and terrific Italian fare, which is why I went straight for the Meatball with Cheese. It should be noted that they may have the best muffaletta in the city and it may make an appearance down the road, but on this visit, I was there for some righteous meatballs.

Most of the "po' boy" sandwiches on the menu come on a soft baguette. The Meatball is no exception. The bread is delicate with a nice crunch. In the case of this sandwich, it comes jammed with mild, flavorful meatballs. I've had them before with spaghetti here (a treat, by the way if you want old school grandma's Italian) and they are just as good on a sandwich.

A small ladle of red sauce accompanies the meatballs adding some sweetness and acidity. Neither the sauce or the meatballs overwhelm either in flavor or in size. They tuck neatly inside the baguette and taste like Italian comfort food. But, the capper (literally and metaphorically) is the melted mozzarella covering much of the bread. It turns a nice, respectable sub into a nasty bacchanal. It's divine.

Interestingly enough, the sandwich is not all that heavy. Despite the seemingly robust ingredients, it's not a massive hunk of bread and all the components are added thoughtfully. It's ideal for lunch. Finding a great meatball sub in Houston wasn't easy, but this one is it and it's not surprising it comes from a joint like Mandola's.

If you have a sandwich you think is one of the best in town, hit us up. We're always looking for new options.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke