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Mama Mia, That’s a Spicy Meatball!

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It’s a stroke of genius! A whole restaurant devoted to nothing but meatballs. Recently, our food sleuth, Mitch Weinstein of tastytravails.com checked out the Meatball Shop, which just opened on Stanton Street:

I’m sure some of you remember that great ad campaign from the 70’s, featuring the title line of this blog post as it’s dialogue. Over and over, tasting the fictional Magdalini’s Meatballs, and never getting the line right. Poor guy.

So I’m happy to report that you most likely won’t be needing the advertised product I refer to above when you finally do get to try The Meatball Shop‘s meatballs…and sides, for that matter.

And I do mean try. This was my fourth attempt (4th! -these guys either have a good PR machine or they really hit upon something – or both) – though in actuality they weren’t yet open for lunch the first time I walked by with Significant Eater. Two more tries for dinner, and they were totally slammed – so I kept on walking. Now they’re open for lunch, and a table was available today, so I grabbed it right up…and don’t tell SE; she’ll be bummed.

A very friendly staff brings you your menu from which you choose your balls and your sauces – literally by checking off various boxes on the menu…no mixing and matching allowed, but single balls with sauce are offered as sliders for $3. Four meatballs come to an order, along with the sauce you’ve chosen and a small piece of locally baked focaccia – okay, it’s from Il Forno, as are the baguettes that the heroes come on – and the meatballs will set you back $7.

Now granted, this write-up is only based on a tasting of 2 of the 6 meatballs offered (33%), 2 of the 4 sauces (50%) and 2 of the 12 sides (I failed math). I didn’t order heroes or sliders either (0%), because I’m not into competitive eating (though it sure seems to have taken over the once-fun Food Network), and since those sandwiches have meatballs and sauce inside of them, at least I tried 33% of the main draw.

Here’s what I ordered…

Actually, it kind of looks like I am a competitive eater, but I promise I’m not – I actually took home 2 of each of the balls. And starting at the top left: lamb meatballs with mushroom gravy, roasted butternut squash, spicy pork meatballs with classic tomato sauce and risotto. A $20 lunch special if ever there was one.

While the risotto was as it is in most restaurants (I shudda had the polenta, in other words, and how about risotto pancakes from someone, please), both meatballs I had were delicious. Starting with the lamb…

…which were seasoned with pine nuts, raisins and mint (maybe ground right along with the meat), yet not overpoweringly so. This is just great comfort food. The slightly gamy taste of the ground-in-house lamb (I’m guessing shoulder, neck, etc.) came through perfectly, with the caramelized exterior bits really adding an extra punch. I love lamb. The mushroom gravy was good too, but I was busy just loving the lamb – naked or so they say.

Next came the spicy pork meatballs…

…once again, ground-in-house pork butt, with a good hint of red pepper flakes, served in a kiddie pool of their classic tomato sauce; the sweet, fatty pork plays nicely with the slightly acidic tomato. It was hard taking 2 of each of these home.

There are twenty-five (yes, 25!) desserts on the menu. Well, there are 5 freshly baked cookies to go along with 5 flavors of house-made ice cream (you pick the combo), and I think that comes out to 25 (5 x 5, right?)…they’re all 4 bucks, and a nice finish, competitive eater or not.

With prices this friendly, a location right in the cross hairs, a nice bunch of folks enjoying cooking and feeding people and some excellent food, there’s no doubt Meatball Shop is going to be jammed for a long time to come. But do try to go, even if it’s only for a light lunch.

Also, a nice little wine and beer list is on the blackboard over the bar. A few beers are served in 3 different sizes and they are $3 for a glass, $5 for a pint and $9 for a quart…all quite reasonable for the nabe, I believe.

Full disclosure – when the check came, I had been comped one order of the meatballs, which was a nice gesture from a new neighborhood hot spot.

The Meatball Shop is located at 84 Stanton Street. They’re open from noon-4am daily. Phone 212-982-8895.

You can read more of Mitch’s musings about food on his blog, Tasty Travails.

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