The Exchange St. Cafe’s motto is “Just Good Italian Food.” Add the word “casual” in there, and that pretty much sums it up.

This little Portland cafe has a menu that includes hot and cold subs, salads, paninis, and steak tip, sausage and chicken dinners. Most interesting is the appetizer menu, which includes huge arancini, stuffed peppers, calzones and probably the best deal on meatballs in the entire state of Maine.

There are about 10 small tables in this modest space on lower Exchange. When I visited, everyone seemed to be getting orders to go. The first thing I noticed when I walked in was Frank Sinatra crooning in the background, and that immediately put a smile on my face.

The next thing that grabbed my attention was a wall covered in an image of the Boston nighttime skyline (the owners of the cafe moved here from Boston). Add in the painting of a Red Sox player and the Italian beer in the cooler (Italians make beer? Who knew?), and you might feel like you’ve been transported to Boston’s North End.

The sausage, pepper and onion sub ($6.50), while not the best I’ve ever had (I would have liked more peppers and onions), was very fresh. Other hot sub options ($6 to $7.95) include chicken parmesan, meatball, steak tip, eggplant and potato egg. Cold sandwiches include prosciutto, mozarella, tomato and basil ($7.95), Italian cold cuts ($6.95) and roast beef ($6.50).

I was most interested in the appetizers. Exchange St. Cafe makes huge arancini (rice balls coated in bread crumbs) for $3.80 each. The app menu also includes panzerotti (potato croquettes), pizza by the slice, calzone, chicken fingers and mozzarella sticks.

Meatballs are on the appetizer menu as well, and may just be the best bargain in the pricey Old Port. For only $3.50, you get three gigantic meatballs that are almost the size of tennis balls, covered in a nice red sauce. The meatballs were delicious, and you could really make a meal out of them. Take them home and add a salad, vegetable side dish or some pasta, and you have dinner.

I also tried a stuffed pepper ($3.50) that was filled with a rice-and-ground beef mixture flecked with green peas. The cheese on top had been melted and then hardened again as it sat with a bunch of other peppers under a heat lamp.

This isn’t exactly fine dining, but I would have enjoyed the stuffed pepper more had I not been wondering how long it had been sitting there. (The rice balls were sitting under the same heat source. They still looked delectable.)

Overall, this little cafe is a really nice addition to the Old Port, where it can be tough to get any kind of decent lunch for $10 or less these days. It’s nice to have a place that serves good food at reasonable prices that isn’t some kind of chain. I’ll be back to try the arancini, the panzerotti and more of those amazing meatballs.

If you haven’t tried this little cafe yet, it’s definitely worth a visit. And you can top off your meal with one of their homemade cannolis.

The features staff of The Portland Press Herald anonymously samples meals for about $7.