In 26 years as a server, Valerie Meli has served quite a few Black Rock customers from behind the bar at Rohall’s Corner and Nietszche’s. On Saturday night, she was working as usual, except this time the bar was hers.
Hot Mama’s Canteen (12 Military Road, 783-8222) is across the street from the Phoenix on Amherst Street. Meli opened the place with Glen Plato, who helped her establish her Headstone Heat hot sauce business in 2010. It was formerly Hilliker’s Pasttime.
It’s a bar with a tavern menu, starting out small with burgers, grilled sandwiches, vegetarian items, hand-cut french fries and sweet potato fries. Toward late summer, full-fledged entrees will be introduced, she said. Of course, her hot sauces will be available at the table.
One of the standouts on the menu will be “Mama Bombs,” which are arancini, rice balls made from risotto stuffed with fillings, rolled into a ball, crumbs and deep-fried.
Meli, who’s Sicilian, said it wasn’t until she ate arancini in restaurants that she realized her family’s standards were different. While most were orange-sized – arancina means “little orange” – the Meli family made its more like grapefruit-sized.
Those “Mama Bombs,” $5, contain about 8 ounces of cooked rice, plus meat or vegetarian filling, she said. “That’s good for an appetizer for two, or a meal.” Also on the menu: grilled Spam sandwich with white cheddar and Weber’s mustard ($6.75).