The humble meatball is found in many cultures, from Italian and Greek to Danish and Swedish. In the states, there’s even a National Meatball Day. Here are 14 restaurants for meatball lovers to try some of the best versions.
Siena Tavern, Chicago, Illinois
The Wagyu beef meatball was created by owner and Top Chef alum Fabio Viviani. You’ll get one — and, at 12 ounces, it’s the size of a softball. In fact, its presence is so large, it has its own Twitter account @sienameatball. It’s served in roasted tomato sauce with a dollop of ricotta on top and a shaved basil finish. Make a reservation at Siena Tavern.
Piñon Grill, Boca Raton, Florida
Vegetarians rejoice — you, too, can love a meatball. The eggplant “meatball” served here is a bite of panko-crusted eggplant served with homemade marinara sauce and topped with fresh basil and Parmesan cheese. Make a reservation at Piñon Grill.
Davio’s, Boston, Massachusetts
Chef-owner Steve DiFillippo’s mom’s recipe for Kobe beef meatballs with Caciocavallo is a two-day feat. The secret: soak the breadcrumbs in milk first before mixing them with the other ingredients for a tender, juicy meatball. Order them from the antipasti menu as a starter to share or make a sandwich with the signature Asiago cheese popovers. Make a reservation at Davio’s.
Armand’s Victory Tap, Chicago, Illinois
Culinary director and chef Joe Farina puts a local Midwest spin on the classic Italian treat with his Mama’s Meatballs dish. His secret: premium cuts of veal and beef, imported Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and a special blend of Italian seasonings — along with inspiration from the supper traditions he grew up with in Melrose Park, one of Chicago’s oldest Italian ‘hoods. Make a reservation at Armand’s Victory Tap.
Colletta, Alpharetta, Georgia
From the kitchen of executive chef Jason Stern comes award-winning meatballs. His recipe: beef, pork, tomato, and basil, served on a bed of creamy polenta and topped with Pecorino Romano. Pasta lovers can go for Colletta’s Spaghetti and Meatballs for a taste of his talk-of-the-town meatballs. Make a reservation at Colletta.
Beauty & Essex, New York, New York
Not everybody loves their meatballs made with red meat, of course, and, thankfully, poultry makes a tender meatball, too. The balls here are rounded with braised chicken along with a pop of flavor from whipped sheep’s milk ricotta and a wild mushroom cream sauce. Make a reservation at Beauty & Essex.
Mercat a la Planxa, Chicago, Illinois
The popular Catalan-style tapas spot serves executive chef Diego Amat’s bite-sized, smoky Albondigas — beef and lamb orbs with smoked yogurt, pickled vegetables, mushroom, harissa, and Marcona almonds. Make a reservation at Mercat a la Planxa.
Sugo Kitchen, John’s Creek, Georgia
The folks at the Castellucci Hospitality Group’s flagship restaurant knows a thing or two about meatballs. The family recipe speaks to traditional Italian meatball methods — with a touch of Greek. The meatball is crafted with a combo of roasted tomatoes, caramelized onions, dates, tomato basil sauce, and Pecorino. Make a reservation at Sugo Kitchen.
Pizzeria Delfina, Burlingame, California
Chef Craig Stoll’s Neopolitan Meatballs in Sugo are a special recipe, created with love — and pork, beef, and veal in a tomato sauce, finished in hot oven, crowned with shaved Parmigiano, and served with crostini. Served at all four locations. Make a reservation at Pizzeria Delfina.
Angeline’s, Charlotte, North Carolina
Chef Hoffman’s Polpette E Mash Potato dish stars lamb and pork meatballs, fresh mozz, and a creamy potato and tomato sauce. He makes a panade with leftover housemade bread like ciabatta and focaccia to bind the meatballs and add flavor, then browns and braises them in Pomodoro and smoked ham hock until soft. Served with Taleggio and truffle fonduta. Make a reservation at Angeline’s.
Marcella’s, Columbus, Ohio
Mama Marcella’s meatballs are referred to as the eighth wonder of the world. The nine-ounce globes are made with ground veal, fresh ricotta, fresh herbs, diced onions, breadcrumbs (made from a buttery, flaky bread) and a little flour for binding, and are then deep fried and braised in bright marinara until tender. They are served on a bed of sauce and sprinkled with freshly-grated Parmigiano. Make a reservation at Marcella’s.
Carmine’s Italian Restaurant, New York, New York
In true Sunday dinner fashion, expect family-style servings of Italian meatballs made of veal, beef, chicken stock, grated Romano cheese, and secret seasonings. The meatballs are baked in the leftover chicken stock for 20 minutes, so they soak up more flavor and moisture and are served over a bed of al dente spaghetti. Make a reservation at Carmine’s Italian Restaurant.
Boiler House Texas Grill & Wine Garden, San Antonio, Texas
You’ll remember the Alamo, as well as the buffalo meatballs that are rounded here using locally-sourced Texas bison. The meat is coated in housemade barbecue sauce and topped with Parmesan cheese. Make a reservation at Boiler House Texas Grill & Wine Garden.
Dante, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Chef Dante de Magistris features polpette on the menu, a dish using his nonna’s secret Italian recipe that’s been passed through the generations. It’s made from a traditional recipe using pork, rather than ground beef, and tomato ragu. Make a reservation at Dante.
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Laurie Bain Wilson is a Boston-based journalist, author, and essayist who writes often about travel, food, and baseball. Find her on Twitter @laurieheather.
Photo credits: Heidi Geldhauser (Colletta); Justin Levy (Beauty & Essex);