The man behind the meatball
Gullatta’s Italian products part of many restaurant dishes
By Doral Chenoweth
FOR THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
Tuesday, December 16, 2003
Phil Gullatta thinks his grandmother would be proud.
His kitchen supplies 120 Columbus restaurants and pizza shops with some of the staples of Italian cuisine — meatballs, ravioli, sauces and the like.
You won’t find his name on any of the menus. And he likes it that way.
Gullatta’s kitchen is bigger than his grandmother’s. He owns Mr. Meatball, a wholesale food company at 3716 Cleveland Ave. The firm has been producing meatballs and other products for almost a half-century. Gullatta bought the company 8 years ago from the founding Casuccio family.
His signature product, the meatball, is made the way every Italian grandmother worth her marinara makes them, with fresh ground beef, bread crumbs, whole eggs, parsley, Romano cheese, garlic and seasonings. The only difference, he said, is that Grandma made them one pan at a time. Gullatta makes his in 50-pound batches.
This year, he estimates his meatball tally will reach 468,000 each weighing 1.5 ounces. He’s on pace to sell 5,000 gallons of spaghetti sauce this year. The operation has kept farmers busy. By the end of the year, Mr. Meatball will have used 3,120 dozen eggs in the meatballs, ravioli, spaghetti and egg noodles, along with 10 tons of durum flour.
Gullatta credits his delivery service with the popularity of Mr. Meatball products. “The meatballs go out of here so fast, we don’t have time to freeze them.”
Likewise, Gullatta won’t use frozen beef in his meatballs. “People come in here all the time trying to sell me frozen beef. . . . I won’t touch it.” He has two perveyors who keep Mr. Meatball supplied with fresh ground beef. This year, the total will reach 16 tons. The business began during WWII, when Angelo Casuccio had contracts to feed troops stationed in Fort Hayes. After the Korean War, Casuccio lost the contract and opened a pizza shop, Chef Casino, at Essex and Cleveland avenues, Gullatta said. Patrons started asking to buy his sauces and meatballs.
Goodbye pizza business, hello wholesale.
Phil is now semi-retired and the business continues as a family operation with the next generation in charge. With Don and Wendy now running the day to day operations. While Phil is semi-retired, he still stops by the shop from time to time.
The retail store at 3716 Cleveland Ave. is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday – Friday and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays.
For more information, call 614-471-0700.