What: Nonna’s Meatballs
Where: Birba Palm Springs, 622 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs
How Much: $10
Contact: 760-327-5678; www.birbaps.com
Why: The tomato sauce and the high-quality meat.
Birba Palm Springs is one of the most difficult restaurants in downtown Palm Springs at which to get a table on a busy night. No joke: If you walk in without a reservation and try to get a table on an in-season Friday night, be prepared to wait for an hour, or perhaps even longer.
So how did this outdoor restaurant that almost exclusively uses a wood oven to cook its food—the little kitchen does not even include a stove, a server told us during a recent meal there—become one of the west valley’s most-popular joints?
For one thing, the outdoor vibe is lovely. Tall bushes keep the hubbub from Palm Canyon Drive to a minimum; strings of lights add ambiance; and seating is offered in a variety of options—tables and bar space are supplemented with club-style couches.
For another, the menu is fairly simple, yet packed with delicious options: Eight appetizers/salads are joined by pizzas and a handful of other options, listed under the heading “Wood Oven.”
One of those “Wood Oven” options has left us coming back for more: Nonna’s meatballs. Four medium-size meatballs—made with both Berkshire pork and grass-fed beef—come covered with a delicious, perfectly seasoned tomato sauce and some large hard-cheese shavings. The fact that Birba’s chefs don’t just use any old ground meat in these meatballs is evident: The flavor is fantastic. After the meatballs were all gone, we had some of that savory tomato sauce left over—so, of course, we had to ask for bread with which to sop it up. However, this being Birba, we received pizza-crust triangles to use—and they did the trick.
The vibe, the friendly service and those meatballs have us so enchanted that we’re almost willing to wait an hour or more for a table. Almost.