Header5 Meet Me at The Meatball Shop... or SoBe Food & Wine Fest

Cocktail Hour will be going light this Thursday because of an impromptu trip to the South Beach Food and Wine Festival, assuming we make it past the snowstorm. We will be hosting our first Cocktail Hour event at the Sunset Lounge in the Mondrian Hotel. We have brought together some friends from the industry including Chefs Todd English, Camille Becerra of Top Chef, her friend Lee Anne Wong also of Top Chef, Seth Levine of Hell’s Kitchen, David Schulman of Georgica Restaurant and many more. There will be passed cocktails provided by Leblon Cachaca along with music by Ian Boyd and Zach Chodorow. Hope to see you there. If you can’t make it, definitely check out “The Meatball Shop” this weekend and my review of it below:

The Meatball Shop
84 Stanton Street

If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past couple of weeks, then you have heard about “The Meatball Shop.” The restaurant, right off of Allen Street on the Lower East Side, it is a must visit for authentic and new style New York comfort food.

My personal meatball voyage began with my grandmother Gladys Iannolino. Grandma Lally, her grandmother name, was an expert in the art of meatball making. She never used a recipe and seemed to be immune to foodborne illness. She constantly tasted combinations of raw meat (pork, beef, and sometimes veal) mixed with garlic, onions, breadcrumbs, hot peppers, pecorino cheese, eggs, basil, and Italian parsley. She would mix the sultry blend of meat with her hands until it reached the proper consistency, and then roll handfuls of it into approximately three-inch-round balls (Ha Ha, I said balls). After that, she would cook them directly in her homemade sauce and the result was the taste of home. I remember she would sometimes mix them with Braciola and hot sausage for Sunday Ragu with Rigatoni, but my favorite was simple sauce and meatballs over long Italian Fusilli.

Quick meatball anecdote: when my Italian father met my Jewish mother years ago, my other grandmother (my mom’s mom), Blanche, was a little less than pleased about the situation – call it naiveté, bitterness, ignorance, or just her disposition, who knows. So my father went to her house for dinner, around 1962, and Blanche Godlis was preparing meatballs. My mom told my dad to taste the meatballs while they were cooking and he happily obliged. He turned to her mother, and said, “Mrs. Godlis these are the most delicious Swedish meatballs I have ever tasted!” My mother started laughing as Blanche turned beet red – they were her Italian meatballs.

Needless to say Gladius and the Italian side won our family’s meatball war.

Meatball Shop Meet Me at The Meatball Shop... or SoBe Food & Wine FestFast forward a couple of decades and someone has finally recreated this experience for mass consumption. Don’t you love capitalism? Americans are geniuses at recognizing emotional moments and ties to our youth and marketing them for commercial gain, not that there is anything wrong with that. Daniel Holzman and Mike Chernow opened The Meatball Shop around a month ago. They have combined their years of experience in clubs and restaurants with culinary training to the meatball. They offer six types of meatballs: chicken, beef, spicy pork, salmon vegetable, and a weekly special. These meatballs are offered with a variety of sauces including classic tomato, spicy meat, mushroom gravy and parmesan cream. The meatballs are available in a bowl with sauce and Foccacia, as sliders, in a hero, or with a side of pasta or vegetables.

Josh and I tried the chicken, beef, and spicy pork varieties and they were all spectacular. The meatballs were very light and the sauces were bursting with flavor and freshness. I loved the sprinkling of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese over the meatballs, not so much Josh (he has some weird thing against white foods). The décor of the place was simple but with a cool modern elegance, while staying true to the neighborhood and Italian culture. The boys also offer a great selection of beers, wines, and sodas including root beer on tap. For dessert, they have freshly baked ice cream sandwiches made from homemade cookies and ice cream.

The food and the idea are simple – the best places are – and this one is no exception. I am told there is already a big wait on weekends and I don’t expect that to change anytime soon; but don’t worry, I am told they have plans for more meatball shops around the city and country. I am not sure if they will ever be as pervasive as Starbucks, but there is definitely some potential for The Meatball Shop.  While 2009 was the year of the pizza and burger wars, don’t be surprised to see 2010 as the year of the meatball wars.

“I’ll take you to the meatball shop, I’ll let you lick the lollipop, Go ‘head girl, don’t you stop, Keep going ’til you hit the spot – woah.”

Keep life delicious and see you next time at Cocktail Hour, where more often than not one drink turns into ten and no one knows where and when the night will end.

 Meet Me at The Meatball Shop... or SoBe Food & Wine Fest

 Meet Me at The Meatball Shop... or SoBe Food & Wine Fest

 Meet Me at The Meatball Shop... or SoBe Food & Wine Fest