If you think meatballs are something round perched atop a plate of spaghetti with red sauce, think again.

Those meatballs, specialty of our Sicilian nana, are one of our all-time favorite comfort foods. But lest we Italians think we can take all the credit, Sweden can also stake claim, as can Mexico and Indonesia, Brazil and Belgium. You get the idea. But now Darien stakes its own claim with a restaurant called, what else, Meatball & Co.

In case you think this is just a gimmick, read on. Meatball & Co. is indeed dedicated to capturing your childhood favorite meatballs and spaghetti, but that is only the beginning of a menu that is all things directly related to meatballs -- except for the cookies, which we will get to later.

The place is charming, with a small dining room with original artwork on the walls. Our waiter told us about it because the work is his, and he is friends with the owner. It's that kind of place, where you and your kids can feel welcome, but you will also feel happy with a grown-up meatball meal. We'd suggest you try the house sampler of five meatballs and the chef's choice of sauce pairings. These plump, generously sized balls arrive in a neat row on an oval plate, each in its own sauce and sprinkled with garnishes. Each is tender, juicy and hugely flavored.

The beef version is classic, with herbs and light breading atop a vibrant tomato sauce. Kids will love this one over spaghetti or mashed potatoes. The herbed chicken meatball has a vibrant pesto sauce. Try it with soft, creamy polenta. Peppery pork meatballs are made even spicier with a hot chili sauce. Spicy, Middle Eastern-inspired eggplant meatballs are cooled with a gentle yogurt sauce. The fifth ball is the special of the day and ours was the "chicken and waffle," which turned out to be darn good and reminiscent of a Southern-diner special with a homey sage-imbued ground chicken ball over a tiny crisp waffle and ladled with a golden cream sauce.

The folks at the next table told us that the Buffalo Chicken ball, available every day, is what brings them back every week to pair with a brew from the blackboard selection of wine and beer.

If you want your meatball in a more creative setting, try it on the house salad with greens, red onion and apple. Don't laugh. It's good. The menu says you can even add a fried egg, but we stopped short of that. Or you could try the Arthur Avenue-made ravioli with any of the meatballs and sauces. We went for a zesty, very adult mushroom sauce.

If tomato sauce and spaghetti sounds too ho-hum, try a spicy meat sauce over white beans and kale, cheese sauce over roasted vegetables or sauteed broccoli. Or go for broke and ladle spicy meat sauce over hand-cut french fries.

More Information

20 Center St., Darien
203-399-5600, www.meatballandco.com.
HOURS: Monday-Thursday 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Friday, Saturday 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday 4:30-9 p.m.
PRICES: Sliders and sandwiches, $9-$3; meatballs and sauce, $12-$8; salads and sides, $7-$6; desserts, $6-$2

The meatballs also build themselves into terrific sandwiches on crusty house-made bread, such as Buffalo chicken with homemade melted mozzarella and homemade blue cheese sauce, spicy pork balls with provolone or chicken parm with tomato sauce and melted mozzarella.

Desserts are not meatballs, but follow a similar homemade, all-time favorite theme with Katy's cookies (a vibrant, young local baker who makes delectable sweets) in chocolate chip, peanut butter or gingersnap. You can have a plate plain or have the kitchen make you an ice cream cookie sandwich. Or, opt for an old-fashioned root beer or cream soda float with your choice of chocolate, vanilla, caramel or espresso flavors. It doesn't get much better than this, folks.

Meatball & Co. has a small focus, but does it in a big way with quality, consistency, moderate prices and good spirits. That's a winning combo any day.