The Dish: Meatballs are the hero at Rinaldo’s | Food | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST
Have napkins at your side when you dig into Rinaldo's popular meatball hero. LENNY MULLINS
Have napkins at your side when you dig into Rinaldo's popular meatball hero. LENNY MULLINS

The Dish: Meatballs are the hero at Rinaldo’s

Housemade meatballs, two types of cheese, tomato sauce and garlic mayo. Need we say more?

Enjoy The Dish, a weekly look at a single menu item from a Halifax restaurant. Whether it inspires you to dine in or take out, we hope to expand your eating horizons.

Meatball hero at Rinaldo’s (two locations), $12
One of the first dishes that brothers Tony and Sam Rinaldo created together is still one of the most popular on the menu at their restaurants. The meatball hero starts with four juicy housemade meatballs, smothered in marinara sauce, melty mozzarella and topped with olives and parmesan. It all rests on a fresh-baked roll that’s been slathered with a hefty helping of roasted garlic mayo. Have napkins at your side when you dig in.

“It’s our staple and everyone just seems to always get it,” says Tony Rinaldo, co-owner of Rinaldo’s Italian American Specialties at 2186 Windsor Street.

Growing up with their father as the owner of Salvatore’s Pizza, the Rinaldo brothers were always in the kitchen. And the meatball hero is not just delicious, it’s sentimental.

“I think the meatball hero is definitely special for me and my brother just because it’s a New York-style sandwich that my dad brought to Halifax in 1989 when he first opened up his pizza place. It’s cool to have our version of his dish,” says Tony. “It’s kind of a collaboration of recipes because it’s my bread recipe, it’s his meatball recipe, it’s our family’s sauce, so that’s a cool culmination of our ideas.”

Pandemic pizzas and progress
Pre-pandemic, Rinaldo’s was thriving. Tony and Sam opened a second location, Rinaldo’s New York Pizza (3428 Dutch Village Road), in 2019.

And while delivery has been a hit for the past year, the sit-down trade is, well, down. “Dine-in is not back to where it was before,” Tony says. “But we’ve been lucky because we had pizza and heroes and they deliver really well.”

Rinaldo’s can do its own deliveries, which is much better for the small business than using the big delivery services, but the restaurant is still on some. “We’re on UberEats ‘cause you kind of have to,” says Tony. “But I would like it to be like other provinces where they limit the amount Uber gets from us. Ontario and BC it’s a 15 percent cap, so it’d be nice if we could get that.”

But Rinaldo’s has done other things to draw customers, including a weekly featured hero, pizza and pasta. So far they’ve done everything from Cuban sandwiches to fried chicken alla vodka to Philly cheesesteak. “Some people just tune in every week to see what our specials are, so I think we’ve garnered a lot of attention around that,” Tony adds.

And while delivery and take-out are still the main business, people are getting comfortable enough with the relaxed Covid restrictions that the dining room isn’t empty. Tony says he’s happy to have Haligonians back in the space again, ordering pizzas and dripping marinara sauce on their white shirts. “It’s exciting just to have people in the doors again, it’s a nice change of pace.”

Dining details
Rinaldo’s Italian American on Windsor Street is open for take-out, delivery and dine-in Tuesday through Sunday from 4pm until 9pm, and 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Rinaldo’s Pizza in Fairview is open Tuesday through Sunday from 3pm to 9pm, and 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays. To phone in your order, call the Windsor Street location at 902‑425‑0000 and Fairview at 902‑443‑0000.

We can use inspiration, too! If you've got a favourite treat to recommend for a future edition of The Dish, email The Coast or tell us about it in the comments.

Victoria Walton

Victoria was a full-time reporter with The Coast from April 2020 until mid-2022, when the CBC lured her away. During her Coast tenure, she covering everything from COVID-19 to small business to politics and social justice. Originally from the Annapolis Valley, she graduated from the University of King’s College...
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