Business at Red Sauce is sunny with a chance of meatballs like you’ve never had. There are mushroom-truffle-chicken meatballs, vegetarian meatballs, meatballs with pomodoro sauce and more. It goes without saying, these aren’t your average meatballs, and that’s what restaurateurs Danny and Brittany Alcala were aiming for when they opened their newest restaurant on the Northshore. Their third eatery in Chattanooga, Red Sauce pours on the flavor and takes a turn from their other restaurant ventures. They opened Embargo ’62 with a Cuban-inspired menu on the Northshore in the summer of 2015, and by the end of the year will be in a new, larger location right down the street at the corner of Cherokee Boulevard and Manning Street. Ceniza, specializing in Caribbean fare, opened in Ooltewah’s Cambridge Square barely a year later. And now, the couple’s newest stake in the Scenic City’s restaurant scene is all about meatballs. They’re crazy about them. “I love meatballs—all different kinds,” says Danny Alcala.
The concept for Red Sauce was born in New York City at The Meatball Shop. That’s where Alcala first experienced the meaty craze. The menu was simple: four meatballs, five sauces and five sides. Red Sauce goes a step further. “We took that and ‘Chattanooga-tized’ it,” Alcala says. “We don’t want to be seen as competition for the other Italian restaurants in town.”
While meatballs are the focus, Italian flavors the menu at this restaurant—some with a Southern twist, like the caprese salad with buffalo mozzarella and fried green tomatoes. “We’re in the South—we love our fried green tomatoes,” Alcala says. Entrees include lasagna with bechamel sauce and stuffed pastas that change with the whim of the chef and baked pastas that rotate regularly.
Red Sauce, Alcala says, takes a Brooklyn-meets-Philly-meets-Little Italy-meets-Chattanooga approach—a fusion concept if there ever was one. There are two sides to Red Sauce—one, an intimate dining experience with soft Motown playing in the background; the other, a more lively outside patio that opens to the bar via a garage-door style window, bringing the outside in and vice versa. “Very loungy and relaxed—it’s a place where you can come and have dinner, a glass of wine or cocktails, listen to jazz and have a good evening,” Alcala says. “And if you’re in your spot and feel the vibe, you might want to do a little two-step. That’d be OK.”
There are two sides to the bar menu, too—bad and boujee. The “bad” side featuring drinks such as Swayze Something, a vodka-grapefruit drink concoction. The “boujee” side serves the classics, like a rye maraschino old-fashioned. The main dining room is small with seating for 30, but the two patios—enclosed and heated during cold weather—seat 110, increasing year round capacity.
Black accent walls with black-and-white tile floors add a sleek veneer to Red Sauce, while exposed duct work adds an industrial edge. Art on the walls of celebrities, such as Sophia Loren and members of The Rat Pack, give a wink to the 1950s and ’60s, creating a retro ambiance.
And the location? It’s slightly off the Northshore’s main drag, but right in the heart of the action of the area’s newest residential growth, and that alone, with the thousands of people living nearby, is all it takes to make Red Sauce one of the hottest places around.