Nothing satisfies quite like a good meatball. “They are delicious, unpretentious, everyone loves them and they’re inherently inexpensive. Perfect!” sums up Daniel Holzman, chef and owner of NYC’s The Meatball Shop. Perfect they are. And who better to speak on the matter than the guy who created an eatery dedicated entirely to spaghetti’s best companion?
With six locations spread throughout Manhattan and one in Williamsburg, AAA Two Diamond Rated The Meatball Shop is only a train ride away from wherever a craving may strike in the city. The name says it all – it’s a shop that specializes in meatballs – and not just the kind your grandma makes.
For Daniel and his partner Michael Chernow, meatballs were the answer to everything they wanted in a restaurant (and clearly the answer to many patrons’ desires as well). “We wanted to open the type of place where we’d want to work, the type of place where we’d like to eat and…a place where we could be proud of what we do without taking ourselves too seriously,” he explains. “Meatballs [lent] themselves perfectly.”
The Meatball Shop’s ballot-style menu allows guests to choose their own adventure. Simply pick a meatball—either beef, pork, chicken, veggie or the day’s special, and then decide whether to enjoy them “naked” or on their own, in a salad, over a starch like pasta or mashed potatoes, or in a sandwich ranging from slider to hero size. Sauces include mushroom gravy, parmesan cheese and classic tomato.
Everything is mix-and-match, including the ice cream cookie sandwiches and floats for dessert, and the brunch menu with meatball-adorned favorites such as eggs Benedict, biscuits and gravy and breakfast sandwiches (available on Saturdays and Sundays until 4 p.m.).
How you customize your order depends completely on how you’re feeling at the moment. Daniel himself is often influenced by the weather and mood of the seasons. While the fall gets him craving a heartier combination of creamy polenta with spicy meat sauce and pork meatballs, the warmer months call for something a bit lighter like a salad with chicken meatballs and pesto sauce.
At The Meatball Shop, care and attention to detail elevate mere balls of ground protein to great meatballs. “All of our food is made from scratch from the best ingredients we can source, everything natural and lots organic and local,” says Daniel, who knows all of the people and purveyors who grow the meat and veggies on the menu. “We are extremely proud of the food we serve.”
The seasonal vegetable offerings are a clear expression of the establishment’s passion for fresh ingredients and bold flavors and make a great accompaniment to any order.
If you haven’t yet had a chance to enjoy a meal in the family-style setting of one of The Meatball Shop locations or if reading this story just made you really hungry and you can’t wait, Chef Daniel (who also co-authored The Meatball Shop Cookbook, 2011) has provided a recipe for you to try at home.
Spicy Pork Meatballs
The Meatball Shop
Yield: About 24 golf ball size meatballs
2 pounds pork shoulder, ground
1+1/3 tbsp. salt
4 hot cherry peppers, minced (about 1/3 cup)
¼ cup pepper pickling liquid
4 slices of white bread, minced (about 3 ½ cups)
2 tbsp. olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 450° F.
- Combine all of the ingredients except for the olive oil in a large mixing bowl and mix by hand until thoroughly incorporated.
- Drizzle the olive oil into a large baking dish (9 x 13) making sure to evenly coat the entire surface (use your hand to help spread the oil).
- Roll the mixture into round, golf ball sized meatballs making sure to pack the meat firmly.
- Place the balls into the oiled baking dish such that all of the meatballs are lined up evenly in rows and are touching each of their four neighbors in a grid.
- Roast until firm and cooked through (about 14 minutes).
- Allow the meatballs to cool for five minutes before removing from the tray.
Learn more about AAA Diamond Rated establishments at AAA.com/Diamonds.