Slideshow: 15 Meatballs in NYC We Love

Polpette Napoletane at Motorino ($9)
Polpette Napoletane at Motorino ($9)
They're classic Italian meatballs with a good amount of nutty-tangy parmesan simmered in a rich and savory tomato sauce. They're a good size, too—large enough that they cook gently and stay velvety and tender throughout, but small enough that you can eat one in a bite or two. You can order them on your pizza, which chef-owner Mathieu Palombino describes as "pizza, if your grandmother made it on Sundays."

Motorino: 349 E 12th Street, New York, NY 10003 (map); (212) 777-2644; motorinopizza.com

Helga's Meatballs ($15) at Red Rooster
Helga's Meatballs ($15) at Red Rooster
A straight-forward, no-twists version of Swedish Meatballs are extraordinary with buttery mashed potatoes, tart lingonberry preserves, and a few fresh dill-flavored quick pickles. Light, tender, and delicious.

Red Rooster: 310 Lenox Ave, New York NY 10027 (map); (212) 792-9001; redroosterharlem.com

Polpettine al Limone at Bar Stuzzichini ($8)
Polpettine al Limone at Bar Stuzzichini ($8)
We didn't know that we wanted meatballs to have a crust until we tried the Polpettine at Bar Stuzzichini, with a browned, salty shell that encases them fully. Your knife slides through the thin shell with an audible crunch before the ball starts gushing meaty juices (beef, pork, and lamb). They're minimally dressed with olive oil and lemon—the better to appreciate the meat action. And they're appropriately sized as an appetizer portion, too.

Bar Stuzzichini: 928 Broadway, New York, NY 10010 (map); (212) 780-5100; barstuzzichini.com

Cesaroni at Salumeria Rosi ($12)
Cesaroni at Salumeria Rosi ($12)
Any day is a good day to go to Salumeria Rosi to sample a plate of the twenty-seven types of salume sold in house. But, if you can, stop by on a Friday when meatballs are the daily special. We adored the Cesaroni, a duo of beef and pancetta meatballs made from owner Cesare Casella's grandmother’s recipe. These meatballs were incredibly moist and above all, tasted like quality meat. The light breading surprised us by enhancing the dish; it provided a nice herby, rosemary flavor. The meatballs come topped with an unctuous pork ragù and sit on a bed of creamy polenta. But the best part is the surprise filling: each meatball is stuffed with oozing, gooey mozzarella.

Salumeria Rosi: 283 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10023 (map); (212) 877-4800; salumeriarosi.com

Duck Meatballs at Perilla ($14)
Duck Meatballs at Perilla ($14)
We love Harold Dieterle's take on Thai food at Kin Shop, but Southeast Asian flavors have been playing a subtle role on the menu at his first restaurant, nearby Perilla for years. Take his Spicy Duck Meatballs. Tender and meaty, they're seasoned with basil and spicy sambal oelek and come simmered in a rich mint and thyme-scented duck broth with a handful of mint cavatelli. A blanket of parmesan cheese comes on top, with a raw quail egg yolk for stirring into the broth.

Perilla: 9 Jones Street, New York NY 10014 (map); (212) 929-6868; perillanyc.com

Lamb Meatball Sliders at Locanda Verde ($12)
Lamb Meatball Sliders at Locanda Verde ($12)
Take delicate, intensely lamb-y little meatballs, plop 'em on buns with a pleasingly meaty-tasting tomato sauce, and add creamy Caprino, an Italian goat's milk cheese: you've got our favorite meatball sliders in town. (Yes, we preferred these to the Little Owl's). The question you're faced with at Locanda Verde: do you order these, or the sheeps' milk ricotta? We recommend both.

Locanda Verde: 379 Greenwich St, New York NY 10013 (map); (212) 925-3797; locandaverdenyc.com

Meatballs at Apizz ($23)
Meatballs at Apizz ($23)
The meatballs at Apizz are so good that the chef John LaFemina's cookbook is named for them. Made from equal parts pork, veal, and beef, these juicy giants are baked in tomato sauce in the restaurant's giant woodburning oven. They're amazingly tender and moist, with a hint of fresh basil and oregano, and a little divot filled with ricotta. At $23, they're pricey, but they're some of the best meatballs we've tasted in the city.

Apizz: 217 Eldridge Street, New York, NY 10002 (map); (718) 875-6863; apizz.com

Roasted Meatballs ($8) and Spaghetti Alla Chitarra ($12) at Rubirosa
Roasted Meatballs ($8) and Spaghetti Alla Chitarra ($12) at Rubirosa
The meatballs are killer—tender and meaty with plenty of parmigiano in the mix. Just as good, though, is the incredible Spaghetti alla Chitarra. It's got the rough texture and al dente chew of hand rolled pasta—perfect for helping the chunky tomato sauce stick to each strand.

Rubirosa: 235 Mulberry Street, New York, NY 10012 (map); (212) 965-0500

Veal Ricotta Meatballs at Craftbar ($21)
Veal Ricotta Meatballs at Craftbar ($21)
Meatball lineage gets complicated in this town; these meatballs first graced the Craftbar menu under chef Marco Canora, who then went on to bring veal-ricotta meatballs to Terroir, where they've earned even more praise. But on a recent visit to Craftbar, the meatballs were still superlative: cloud-light and beautifully tender, as delicate as an orb of meat could be, in a simple buttery-tasting tomato sauce that doesn't overwhelm the veal. (Optional spaghetti is properly cooked but otherwise unremarkable.)

Craftbar: 900 Broadway, New York, NY 10003 (map); (212) 461-4300; craftrestaurant.com‎

Albondigas at Tulcingo Restaurant
Albondigas at Tulcingo Restaurant
Albondigas are delicious things, and we've yet to find a version we like more than those at Tulcingo (where they're a frequent off-the-menu special). In central and southern Mexico, albondigas are large and dense—usually bathed in a thick chipotle tomato sauce. At Tulcingo Restaurant in Elmhurst, Queens, they're large spheres of meat garnished with three thickly cut rings of raw onion, a crisp and sharp counter to the spicy and very rich chipotle sauce; even better, these are stuffed with hard-boiled egg.

Tulcingo Restaurant: 40-11 82nd Street, Elmhurst NY 11373 (map); 718-205-3134

Meatballs at Esposito's ($2.25)
Meatballs at Esposito's ($2.25)
Esposito's Pork Store, which has been on Court Street since 1922, just looks like the type of place that'd sell meatballs an Italian grandmother could love—and, thankfully, they do. The cramped butcher shop (with a welcoming pig statue out front) sells the veal-pork-beef blend balls for $2.25 each. They're swimming in a thin red sauce in a tray behind the glass counter where you'll also find fresh mozzarella, sausage, and arancini. Meaty, fluffy, and nicely flavored with the typical Italian spices (hello, oregano), they're baseball-sized and plenty filling.

Esposito's: 357 Court Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231 (map); (718) 875-6863

Honorable Mention: Meatball Sub at Lorimer Market ($6.50)
Honorable Mention: Meatball Sub at Lorimer Market ($6.50)
Meaty and garlicky and peppery in all the right ways, the meatballs from Lorimer Market have an awful lot going for them. They’re soft and fine-grained with just a little bounce when you bite ‘em; the sauce is bright-tasting and sweet with onion. Sure, there’s the occasional little bread chunk in the meatballs, but they’re more than tasty enough to keep you biting again and again. Of the old-school sandwich shop meatballs we tried, these were among the best--and, at just $6.50 for this enormous meatball sub, it rated pretty high on the delicious-to-dollars ranking.

Lorimer Market: 620 Lorimer Street, Brooklyn, NY 11211 (map); (718) 389-2691