In honor of Columbus Day I started thinking about meatball heroes. A great meatball hero is hard to find. Most meatballs are leaden and way too dense. They're weighed down with too many breadcrumbs. Most hero rolls are cottony disasters, with no chew to the crust. When you find a good meatball hero it's cause for celebration. But when I tried to come up with a top five meatball heroes list I came up short: I could think of three that I truly loved. They are:
Address: 457 Court Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231 (map); 17 Clinton Street, New York, NY 10002 (map)
Phone: 718-403-0033, 212-403-0033
Website: frankiesspuntino.com The gold standard of meat ball parm heroes. The meatballs are light, the mozzarella is fresh, and the bread is Sullivan Street bakery pizza.
Address: 460 Court Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231 (map)
Phone: 718-855-8852 A family-run Italian grocery store with very high standards, Caputo's features Mrs. Caputo's surprisingly light meatballs, made with beef, pork, and veal.
Address: 46-02 104th Street, Corona, NY 11368 (map)
Phone: 718-898-6069 Also known as Mama's, Leo's Latticini only has meatballs on certain days of the week. So call first.
Address: 290 Elizabeth Street, New York, NY 10012 (map)
Website: crosbyconnectionnyc.com The crosby special is a meatball hero with ricotta and mozzarella. It's a little messy and I wish the bread were a little better, but overall the Crosby Connection makes a fine meatball hero. The price is right, as well: $6.
In theory, based on their track record, the following places should be prime territory for meatball heroes:
Address: 357 Court Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231 (map)
Phone: 718-875-6863 The quintessential Brooklyn pork store, Esposito's makes meatballs, fresh mozzarella, has decent bread, and they have pretty high standards.
Address: 1424 Avenue J, Brooklyn, NY 11230 (map)
Phone: 718-258-1367 I've never had a meatball parm hero at Dom's, but let's face it, the man knows how to cook and he takes great pride in everything he makes. Anybody had a meatball hero at DiFara?
Meatball Hero Emeritus
Corona Heights Pork Store: The Corona Heights Pork Store is closed (I haven't been able to get in touch with the Cappezzas to find out why), but Mary Lou made a meatball parm hero that was as good as an old school hero could be. Her meatballs were clouds, her sauce was loaded with meaty pork flavor, and she used excellent hero rolls from Rose and Joe's Bakery in Astoria.
I'm also thinking that Faicco's on Bleecker St. and Brooklyn must make a really fine meatball hero, but I've never had one there. Any reports? And what about Royal Crown in Brooklyn?