Tag Archives: meatballs

Carbone

The moment you step inside Carbone you are instantly transported.

The dimly lit but lively dining room is both an homage to your Italian grandmother’s house as well as the restaurant where Michael shoots Sollozzo and McCluskey in The Godfather.

The place is immediately familiar and cozy. You may even recognize furniture and light fixtures if you grew up around Italian-Americans.

The music is all the great crooner hits from your favorite mob movies like Goodfellas, with some doo-wop classics from Bronx Tale mixed in. Not too loud, not too soft. And the food is some of the best red sauce Italian-American cuisine I’ve ever had.

The sharply dressed, deep burgundy tuxedo-clad servers will first bring to the table a basket of tomato focaccia, garlic bread and sliced Italian bread.

There’s also a plate of pickled cauliflower to snack on, some locally made finocchiona salami, and of course a nice hunk of parmigiano reggiano cheese.

We started with the truffle emulsion Piedmontese beef carpaccio, which is served with some peppery arugula, walnuts, chives, coarse salt, sliced mushrooms and a generous drizzle of some killer olive oil. This was hands down the best carpaccio dish I’ve ever had.

Their baked clams are pretty great as well. My favorite of the three styles is that center one, topped with pesto and uni. Absolutely awesome.

We tried three pasta dishes, because we are savage animals. The first was the spicy rigatoni vodka, which they describe as being “part of the DNA” of Carbone.

This was perfect. Perfectly spicy sauce, perfectly cooked pasta. Easily one of the best pasta dishes I’ve had this year. This is a must order pasta dish when you dine here. Even if you split it as an appetizer or something. Get that Carbone DNA in your mouth!

Next was the orecchiette with beans and cabbage.

This seasonal pasta was mildly reminiscent of the “pasta e fagiole” that I ate growing up, only with the escarole swapped out for cabbage, and with a less porridge-like texture. This you can eat with a fork on a plate, unlike what I grew up eating, which required a bowl and a spoon. Either way, delicious.

Finally, the tortellini with meaty ragu.

I’m generally not a huge fan of tortellini, but that’s probably because I’m used to the frozen or vac-sealed grocery store products that I usually eat cold (and dense) in a salad with olives, peppers and cheese. These bundles of joy were stellar. The stuffing inside was almost creamy, without any grainy or lumpy ricotta texture. And the sauce was going down my throat by the spoonful. Loved these. Absolutely beautiful plating as well.

We had a short break after the pasta and took down a trio of beautiful meatballs.

These off-menu delights are nice and tender, and packed with flavor. Rustically formed, you can sometimes get a chunk of melty cheese or a piece of soft, roasted garlic in the occasional lucky bite. These were great. Don’t be alarmed, either; they will be served pink in the middle.

For the entrees, we had both the veal parm and the pork chop with peppers. The veal was pounded out flat, and fried to a golden crisp with seasoned breadcrumbs. The bright sauce and melted cheese (both mozz and ricotta, with some grated parm on top) were topped with crispy basil leaves to bring home that nice herbaceous pop.

What a dish! They even serve it with the breaded and fried rib bone alongside the cutlet. And if you take some to go in a doggy bag, they’ll send you home with a sesame seed bun to make a sandwich out of the leftovers.

The pork with peppers reminded me of when my mom used to cook pork chops with cherry peppers and sliced potatoes as a kid. Nothing beats the taste of nostalgia, but this was a pretty close runner up. Those red peppers and onions on the side were delicious.

We were so stuffed that we had to skip dessert, despite the selections looking fantastic. I really wanted a slice of the lemon cheesecake.

But the captain, Jared, brought over some snacks for us after he saw how infatuated we were with all the little details in the restaurant that reminded us of growing up with Italian grandparents.

The rainbow cookies with espresso (and a splash of Sambuca!)…

The Jordanian candy-coated almonds (just like those old Italian wedding favors in the mesh bag)…

The simplicity of cotton candy grapes and walnuts (reminded me of Christmas Eve)…

And, of course, the Italian cookies and pastries from an old tin box…

It’s no wonder this place has a Michelin star and has become a tough reservation to score. I generally don’t like hyped up joints, but here it is well-deserved. We even saw Adam Sandler there. This place is worth your time and money. Go, as soon as you can! And if you’ve already been, then go back.

CARBONE
181 Thompson St
New York, NY 10012

Don Angie

I went to Don Angie with a group of friends, so we tried almost half of the menu. I tried two cocktails; the Uncle Jimmy (Islay scotch, amaretto, bitters and lemon) and the Pinky Ring (bourbon, carpano, galliano and campari). Both were really nice.

We started with the stuffed garlic flatbread for the table.

This was delicious, especially when eaten simultaneously with their chrysanthemum salad, which is probably the best salad I’ve ever had. Easily one of the best dishes of the year (a salad!) – so good, we ordered a second.

The tonnato vitello was really nice and refreshing, made with spicy veal tartare and tuna carpaccio.

For pasta dishes, we first tried a special Sardinian dumpling in a creamy cheese sauce, topped with shaved white truffle.

Next up, caramelle.

These candy packages were a nice mix of sweet and savory. Beautiful too.

We also had their famous lasagne pinwheels. Also beautiful. And with such a thin noodle, they are actually light and delicious.

But the star of the show was the giant garganelli in broken meatball ragu. This was fucking incredible.

It reminded me of my grandma’s Sunday sauce, only with better quality homemade pasta. I crave this daily, and it is at the top of my list for best dishes I tried this year. We also ordered a second one of these since it was so incredible.

We also had the charred octopus. This was a small portion to share among six people, but it was indeed tasty.

The veal “da pepi” was like a Milanese chop. Very tasty and crisp.

Let down of the meal goes to the prime rib braciole.

It was somehow a bit dry, under cooked in parts (the center), and stringy in others (the outer edges). Bummer. I was really looking forward to this. The stuffing tasted like my dad’s stuffed cherry peppers, which was nice. 5/10.

We also had some sides: potatoes and polenta.

For dessert, we tried a bit of everything. The sgroppino was bright and acidic, the fior di latte mochi was unique and tasty, the tiramisu was perfect, and the honey zeppole were nice little versions of the fried belly bombs I loved as a kid.

This place is worth the struggle for a reservation. Get the salad, the garganelli, and the lasagne. You’ll be happy.

DON ANGIE
103 Greenwich Ave
New York, NY 10014

Zio Ristorante

NOTE: THIS PLACE IS NOW CLOSED

I came to Zio to help promote their Meatball Monday special, where you get three meatball sliders for $10.

My favorites are the lamb with ricotta, veal with mozzarella, and chicken with fontina. But you really cant go wrong with the spicy chorizo or even the veggie pesto sliders.

I also tried their lamb ragu pappardelle, which was really nice. The lamb was tender and juicy, and the pasta was perfectly al dente.

I also tried the chicken parm. This was breast meat, and the cheese is home made mozzarella. Nice crisp on this.

Looking forward to going back to trh their veal chop.

ZIO RISTORANTE
17 W 19th St
New York, NY 10011

Meatball Shop

The Meatball Shop just opened up a new location on 9th Avenue at 53rd Street. The space is pretty cool, and it even has a bar attached called “Sidepiece,” where they feature all of their great cocktails and more food items.

My favorite cocktail there is a tequila and mezcal based drink called “the girl with the nice pear.”

My buddy brought me with him to shoot some photos for Instagram influencing purposes, so we were able to try a bunch of stuff. We started with the buffalo chicken meatballs, which were really great.

Next, this truly one of a kind tomato soup that is served with grilled cheese balls. This is only available for a limited time and only at the Hell’s Kitchen location, so get on it while you can.

This dish was awesome: pork meatballs in pesto on a bed of spaghetti. I really liked the texture and flavors here.

Meatball Shop also does something called “smash” sandwiches. Basically they flatten a pair of meatballs, cover them with melted cheese and dress with sauce before putting it all on a nice sandwich bun. This one here is made with chicken meatballs and topped with their classic tomato sauce and melted mozzarella. We added an egg on top because we rule.

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We didn’t stop there. Dessert consisted of a chocolate chip cookie and vanilla ice cream sandwich. Simple and delicious.

But my favorite was the brown sugar ice cream banana brulee split.

Amazing meal. I’m sold on this place for sure.

MEATBALL SHOP
798 9th Ave
New York, NY 10019

Maroni Hot Pots

UPDATE: THIS PLACE IS CLOSED!

There’s a very interesting little concept restaurant on the upper east side called Maroni Hot Pots. The joint is mainly aimed at providing delivery service, but there’s still a handful of tables set up inside the beautiful little space. So what makes this concept unique? The pot.

Many of their dishes are served (and delivered!) in really nice keepsake metal pots. Yes – you get to keep them.

I’m not sure how useful they’d be on your stove top, but they’re definitely not cheap, crappy items by any means. At the very least you can use them as planters.

Okay, but enough about the pots. We tried a lot of different items.

First up, pizza bread. This is more like a garlic bread with cheese and sauce topping as opposed to your standard NYC style pizza. A more puffy, doughy pie.

It’s served in a nice glass dish and it’s seasoned generously, topped with herbs as well. Essentially, it’s like a Sicilian pizza.

I should say now that the cheeses here are all incredible. They don’t harden after a few minutes – they stay nice and stretchy. I shot this probably 15 minutes after the pizza came out:

The fresh mozz caprese salad also exhibits stellar quality cheese, and the diced tomato, dresed with a nice balsamic, was a nice change of pace from an ordinary caprese salad.

Throw that on top of a lightly breaded chicken cutlet with some arugula, and you have their delicious chicken milanese dish.

But one starter they have become known for is their million dollar potato chip. A thick cut, fried potato crisp, topped with fresh cream and caviar. Very tasty.

And it’s not often that you see baked clam dishes use high quality little necks or cockles like they do here. Most baked clam dishes use giant bait clams, with minced up meat inside. No thanks. These were whole clams, nicely breaded and stuffed, and then baked to perfection.

Okay now for the pasta dishes. We tried a bunch. I’ll start with my favorite, the penne a la vodka.

What I liked about this sauce was that it was more buttery than typical vodka sauces I’ve had in the past. The pasta was cooked perfectly in this dish too.

Their cacio e pepe is nice, but having just come back from a trip to Italy, I was a bit too spoiled to truly appreciate the dish. Cacio e pepe in Rome is just insane. Nothing quite comes close. I did, however, get a bunch of nice pics. As you can see, they used a penne pasta here as well.

One specialty they’re known for here is their cognac sauce. They hit their tomato sauce with some cognac, burn it off, and simmer it down. What they’re left with is a nicely sweetened sauce. They serve that with rigatoni and a generous glob of ricotta for mixing into the sauce. Amazing. This dish has even been featured on local news stations. I highly recommend it.

Last pasta dish: spaghetti and meatballs. This classic tasted great.

And while nothing beats mom’s homemade meatballs, these were pretty tasty. We had an order sans spaghetti as well.

Like any Italian meal, there’s always more. We also tried their chicken parm and gagootz (zucchini) parm. The last time I heard that word was probably when my grandfather was featured in the news for growing the biggest one in Long Island history out of his backyard garden, which, at one point, was more like a small farm.

Here’s a shot of my grandfather’s massive gagootz (not the actual prize winning squash, however; that one was like 15ft, and we are still trying to locate the photo).

FYI, the word “gagootz” is a dialected, faster way of saying the word “cucuzza” in Italian, which is a kind of squash. The word “gagootz” is typically used by Italians to refer to all types of squash, though, including zucchini, as is done here at Maroni Hot Pots.

In any case, both parms were excellent, and both essentially looked the same, so I’m just using one picture to showcase them. Can you guess which one this is?

The beatles are all over this joint, by the way, and the music is a great mix of classic rock. Anyway, I really enjoyed the gagootz parm. I’m not an eggplant fan, so swapping that out for zucchini is a great idea. The skin is much more pleasing, and the texture of the vegetable’s flesh itself is firmer and more snappy.

I was so full at that point that I put my camera away, thinking we were done… but Italians… Bless our hearts, and stomachs…

So dessert came out. Chocolate mousse with a toasted marshmallow topper, cannoli and tiramisu. All excellent. Here’s a nice shot of them, taken by my wife:

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The Maroni family also owns a high-end, multi-course “tasting menu” style restaurant in Northport, Long Island. I’ve heard amazing things about this place, and, from what I understand, a reservation has to be made a month in advance because it is so well received. I plan to visit soon with my cousins. Stay alert for updates!

MARONI HOT POTS
307 E. 77TH St
New York, NY 10075

Parm

My wife and I stopped in here on a Friday night for a quick meal at the bar. We heard great things but never had a chance to try before.

We ordered three items: meatballs, fried calamari with shishito peppers, and the Randy Levine sandwich, which came with fries.

First, let’s start with the weirdly named item: the Randy Levine. It’s a sandwich made of pork belly, plum sauce, Chinese mustard, half-sour pickles and garlic bread. It’s named after something that the president of the Yankees had once eaten in the Catskills.

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Unfortunately the “slow cooked” pork belly was a bit too chewy. I attribute that to fat content that was not cooked long enough at low temperatures to get good and soft. Also the glaze on it tasted a bit bitter and burnt. Bummer.

The fries that came with it, however, were excellent. They’re called “Italian fries” because they’re tossed with herbs and parmesan cheese, I suspect. Nicely cooked and crisp, golden brown.

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The meatballs were great, and I’m a stickler for these fucks. Nothing beats mom’s meatballs. Since these came off as the soft, long-cooked stewed kind, I did find it odd that the center looked medium rare. That had me concerned about whether they used veal or pork in the mix. In any case, no tummy aches from raw meat, and the flavors were great – even the red sauce. It was light and flavorful. Still though: the best way to make a meatball is to fry them in a pan first, get a crispy coating on the outside that locks in the juices, and then slow cook in the sauce on low for a while.

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The star of the meal for my wife (for me it was the meatballs) was the fried calamari with shishito peppers. They had a great crispy crust, a good ratio of rings to tentacles, and the peppers offered a great pop of flavor to mix things up.

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All in the bill came to $85 with tax and tip, which also included a beer and a glass of wine. A bit pricey, but at least three of the four items we ate were tasty.

PARM
235 Columbus Ave
New York, NY 10023

Ornella Trattoria

Meet Giuseppe Viterale, a meat man after my own heart.

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After putting his architecture career to the side, Giuseppe came to the US from Italy, sight unseen. He diligently worked his way up through the restaurant industry, all the way from bus boy, to waiter, to manager, and, eventually, to owner of his own restaurant, Ornella, which is romantically named after his wife of 25 years and staffed with his sons.

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But that’s not where it ends. Giuseppe owns a pig farm in the Catskills where he spends lots of time working on and perfecting new recipes, and curing his own meats. SAY WHAT!?!??

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For the last few years, he’s been making his own prosciutto, fresh sausages, cured sausages, nduja sausages and other delicious meat items that end up on the seasonal and special menus at Ornella. As you can imagine, the result is a restaurant that is very meat-centric, fresh, dynamic and locally sourced. Shit, he even has a pretty impressive steak menu and hosts a steak night on Mondays for $15… FIFTEEN DOLLARS!!!

But this isn’t just a place for meat eaters either. There’s a sizable vegetarian selection, and the menu boasts an array of authentic Italian dishes. There’s even some unique items like duck meatballs and sanguinaccio (a chocolate blood pudding dessert), inventive sauces like pistachio pesto sauce and orange brandy sauce, and interesting pasta dishes made from hemp, buckwheat and chestnut flour – all made fresh in house.

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They’ve even recently added a pizza selection for the delivery menu:

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The joint has even been featured on ABC’s Eyewitness News:

My wife and I stopped in for a complimentary press dinner after Giuseppe reached out to me and let me know about his gem of a restaurant in Astoria.

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Giuseppe has an incredibly magnetic personality. He is overflowing with information and a desire to impart his knowledge of food history, his food philosophy and his ideas about food culture onto everyone around him. He has actually even considered hosting classes for this very reason. But what exactly is his philosophy? That food, what we eat, how we eat it, and the quality and history of our dishes, is central to everything; our humanity, our health and well being, our economy, our interpersonal relations, and our understanding of one another. And he’s right. The kitchen is the center of any home. The table is where we congregate as a family and actually interact with one another. In a living room, we simply stare at the television. All peoples with rich cultures have rich food cultures, he explained. One thing that crosses cultural, visual, and audio-linguistic barriers is our common need and desire for food. Food brings people together.

Another interesting aspect of Giuseppe’s philosophy was what he referred to as “slow food.” With everything becoming expensive and factory-commercialized, with the proliferation of fast food joints and instant gratification meals, he was drawn to start making his own products and spend real time making dishes as opposed to just buying products and preparing them for diners. This is how the pig farm started. Giuseppe found that he could either buy nduja sausage for $80, which wasn’t that good to begin with and was very difficult to find in the form he wanted due to embargoes and other impediments, or he could make his own and control every aspect of the flavor, just how he wanted. He explained that he could actually verify where an animal came from and what it ate while living, unlike what is happening now with “prosciutto di Parma.” He could ensure the quality, the spice level, and the firmness or texture of whatever he was making. He could take different parts of the animal and cook them each in their correct way in order to utilize the entirety of the animal without wasting the undesirable parts. So many places only cook the items that are quick and easy to move off the line in a kitchen. “Slow food” is more respectful to the product and the environment, he explained.

His passion and respect for food shines through his dishes, as does his inviting, innovative and creative personality. He has applied his background in architecture to his food endeavors. “In order to have a strong building, you first need to build a good foundation,” he said. Quality ingredients, strong, basic cooking techniques… “Then you can build up, you can build flavors.” Well if cooking is architecture, then Giuseppe is Frank Lloyd Wright, and his food is the Guggenheim. Not only is he great with the foundations, but he is wildly creative as he builds up from there.

Here’s what we tried:

First there were the massively poured goblet of Montepulciano wine. Very smooth yet robust and flavorful. A perfect red for meat eating. I had read about the large glasses of wine served here online. This was a treat, and they certainly live up to their reputation of BIG wine pours.

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The bread was a nice rustic style, crisp and flakey on the crust and soft and savory on the inside.

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Giuseppe sat with us and explained the two different types of sausages we were about to try, both of which were homemade at the farm upstate.

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First was the nduja, which is a Calabrian-originated product that is somewhat similar to French andouille, only soft like a pate, as well as spicy. It was spread across a nice slice of farm house bread. The main ingredients are pork belly and red peppers. Simple and delicious.

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I’ve never had anything like this before, where it can be spread across bread like butter or pate. It was absolutely amazing. The spice level was mild to medium, so it didn’t ruin your taste buds for the rest of the meal.

Next was the hard, dried sausage. This was aged and cured perfectly. It would make for a really amazing thin-sliced charcuterie plate, but it is equally great to just gnaw on like jerky. It had a wonderful natural flavor. You knew you were eating something that was made with care.

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We had the pleasure of trying the famous duck meatballs for our appetizer. In the center was a blend of mild cheeses like mozzarella and ricotta, so as not to take away any attention from the duck.

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The orange brandy sauce was a classic pairing with the duck, yet presented in an innovative Italian way in the form of a meatball. Those are raisins you see garnishing the plate as well.

Next up was probably my favorite of the savory courses. Pork chop, pounded flat, lightly breaded and fried, and rolled up / stuffed with mushroom, spinach and cheese, dressed in a marsala wine sauce with mushrooms and served  with absolutely perfectly executed cavatelli.

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Cavatelli is my favorite kind of pasta, so for me to rave about it here means a little something extra. I loved it – every last bite.

Next was some “slow food” braised beef short rib, on the bone, and served with gnocchi. This was topped with a reduction of the braising liquids, which was essentially carrots, celery, onion and a little bit of tomato.

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Despite the fact that I am not a huge fan of gnocchi to begin with (too starchy and often gummy for me), I really did enjoy this dish. The beef was tender and fell off the bone, and the sauce was impressive. When I heard “reduction of the braising liquid” I was expecting something very salty. This was actually kind of light for a beef sauce. Impressive.

Last, but certainly not least, was the absolute star of the show for both my wife and I. You can’t get it anywhere else in the world, as a matter of fact. Only in Astoria at this small restaurant. This is the sanguinaccio. It is a raviolo made from a mixture of chestnut and regular flour, fried up like an empanada but stuffed with a 50/50 mixture of pigs blood and chocolate, to make a blood pudding that’s been spiced with cinnamon, clove, orange peel and sugar. If I had to guess, 90% of people would cringe at the description of this, but all you need to do is take one fucking bite and you will have your entire world turned on its head.

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This is definitely a bucket dish: a dish to put on your bucket list, something you must try before you die. And I’m not the only one who thinks this way. This dish (as well as another made by Giuseppe), was featured in the book “1000 Foods to Eat Before You Die,” written by famous New York Times food critic Mimi Sheraton.

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I really can’t say enough good things about that dessert. It was amazing, and I’m generally not a sweets guy, and certainly not a chocolate guy. I’ve never seen blood served in a dessert manner. I’d had my fair share of blood sausages, congealed blood cubes like gelatin in asian soups, etc. But never like this in dessert. Amazing. I’ll definitely be back here soon, and I hope you make your way there as well. Go and experience this rare dish, and fall in love with all the other great innovations that Giuseppe has to offer. He’s truly a talented man.

ORNELLA TRATTORIA
29-17 23rd Ave.
Astoria, NY 11105