Hester Street Fair Food: Arancini Bros. for Rice Balls
The Arancini Bros. aren't actually brothers, by blood at least. They do have a pretty deep fraternal bond when it comes to arancini, or the Italian rice balls filled with all sorts of deliciousness. David Campaniello and Will Levatino were both in the music industry but needed an escape, so they decided to map out an arancini tour of Sicily last summer. (How badly do you want to go on that trip?)
A whole bunch of fried orbs later, they started this mobile business, which sets up regularly at the Hester Street Fair. They use arborio, an Italian short-grain rice that's creamier and chewier than most varieties, and cooked in a stock with parmesan. The arancini-prepping happens at Noodle Pudding in Brooklyn Heights, where David occasionally waits tables, then the spheres get dunked in the deep fryer at Hester Street Fair.
Our favorite is the arancini ai funghi, or "the mushroom one." At the core, beneath that thick and crispy exoskeleton, are chunks of oyster and crimini mushrooms in a pool of melted fontina. It's oozy and creamy in a molten chocolate center kind of way—but you can still pull back and stretch the cheese a few inches, like bubblegum. Served hot, it might require a slow nibble to avoid tongue burnage, but the ball stays melty-soft even as it cools. Arancini agli spinaci is also tasty, filled with sauteed spinach leaves and fresh ricotta.
Arancini all'aragosta (look at us learning so much Italian here!) had a crispy fried jacket like the others, but without the same creamy rice internal layer. Instead, the rice is all mixed in with the lobster bits and cream. If you're craving lobster, you should probably just go for a Luke's lobster roll (they're usually set up nearby). Nothing beats biting into a big hunk of fresh lobster meat—the little flecks hiding in here are less exciting, and kind of a lobster tease to be honest, but nonetheless tasty.
Sometimes you don't think you need a rice ball, or think it'll be a whatever few bites, but these are just-fried, still-hot, and stuffed with delicious creamy fillings. Totally worth the $5 for two.
The Arancini Bros. are at the Hester Street Fair periodically, and hoping to launch a mobile truck soon.
Hester Street Fair
Hester and Essex Street; NY, NY 10002 (map)