by Valerie Schroth
Jan 31, 2013
12:46 PM
Table Hopping

Meatball Mania

 

Move over, spaghetti, meatballs are starring on a plate of their own. These homey favorites can be found in almost every cuisine, and lately they’ve settled into a diverse range of menus across the state. Adaptable to any food fad, they’ve become a trend of their own. There’s even a whole new restaurant devoted to them.

The Meatball House opened in New Haven in August. “It’s the ultimate comfort food,” says owner Bob Potter, who was inspired by New York City’s Meatball Shop. “I thought it was fun.” The Meatball House serves four meatballs and sauces. The beef and the chicken are mild, while the pork gets some heat and added flavor from cherry peppers. The vegetarian “meatball” has a long list of healthy ingredients, including beans, walnuts and vegetables. Ricotta keeps all the meatballs, which are roasted, light and moist. The sauces—tomato, pesto, creamy Parmesan and mushroom, complement all. Daily specials are variations on the theme, maybe a spicy Buffalo chicken meatball, or a feta, olive and mint-flavored Mediterranean or even a Greek-inspired chicken spanikopita meatball.

At Bar Sügo, a new gastropub in Norwalk, executive chef Pasquale Pascarella wasn’t content to make only his “mommy’s meatballs” (all-beef, served with tomato sauce sprinkled with grana padano). He makes five others, each with a special topping. Ordered by the plate, or as a meatball tasting platter, it’s great fun for foodies who like to talk about what they’re eating. The debate about whether meatballs should be made with the classic combo of beef, pork and vea, or just one of those meats, can be put to the test when comparing the Sügo meatball with the Crispy Veal meatball (extra points for its panko coating and the Calabrian chile aioli). Most unusual is the Veal Sweetbread, flavored with bacon and served with pearl-onion agrodolce for a sweet-sour counterpoint. The most flavorful is the “Local” meatball, made from grass-fed beef from Ox Hollow farm in Roxbury, served with red onion jam.

Meatballs have been on the menu at Roseland Apizza in Derby for 70 years, and they’ve never been more popular. “People come in and order the pizza with meatballs, and then they’ll order a side of meatballs in sauce, too,” says owner John Lucarelli. The beloved meatball grinder is made on fresh house-baked rolls: four hefty meatballs in sauce, topped with mozzarella and baked until the cheese melts and the bread is toasted. 

At The Tavern at Millwright’s in Simsbury, chef Tyler Anderson is making meatballs for the first time. His lamb meatballs served with white polenta and fennel-and-mint slaw involve “a lot of technique,” he says. “People come here looking for a different dining experience.” A slow-cooked sofrito of fennel, chiles and tomato flavors the meat (70 percent lamb, 30 percent pork, from trimmings from whole animals he butchers in-house) that has marinated overnight. “They’re very popular,” Anderson says.

In New London, meatballs are nestled in an Asian spoon at Dev’s on Bank Street. Crispy pork meatballs have been a favorite on the menu since this “Mediterrasian” tapas restaurant opened five years ago. Chef Rachel Devendittis seasons them with scallions, garlic, oyster sauce, fish sauce and cilantro, wraps a strand of linguine around them and deep-fries.

And let’s not forget the Swedish meatball. New Haven’s IKEA serves a foodie guilty pleasure. Sure, they’re mass-produced, but the plate of 15 mini meatballs (made from beef, pork and potato) with mashed potatoes, gravy and lingonberry sauce costs $3.99. Talk about comfort food.

Meatball Mania

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About This Blog

Table Hopping is your guide to food, restaurants and more across Connecticut, dished up by senior editor Valerie Schroth. If it's a tidbit on a hot new chef, a tip on a cozy little dining spot or the latest on the latest on the state culinary scene, this is the place to get your fill.

For comments or feedback, email Valerie.

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