The Meatball Shop

Meatballs exist in many cuisines in one guise or another. In the UK, we have the faggot which can bring fear and dread to the unknowing. And yet our meatball fetish was rekindled by Ikea introducing us to the Swedish version. Then there’s the kofta – an old stalwart of most Middle Eastern and Indian menus. But probably most well known is the Italian polpette which are easily recognisable as a comforting and traditional favourite of every household.

The Italians always know how to bring a smile through food. It didn’t matter if it was added to a bowl of pasta or stuffed in a roll of sorts, the meatball was certainly a core staple for all Mediterranean families. I guess that’s also why it became such a recognised dish in the US as the Italians spread  the love through neighbourhoods and everyone realised what a wonderful dish it was.

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So simple, and so tasty. The beauty is the fact that it can be made from cheaper meat cuts with minced meat of all kinds being filled out with other ingredients to provide a hearty meal for even the largest of families. Then came The Meatball Shop in NYC and suddenly this family fave became a trend to look out for. It was a simple and winning formula with a choice of balls, a choice of sauces and a choice of sides. You even have a basic, wipeable tick list menu, plus a vege option as well as a sweet alternative with balls of ice cream packed between sweet American cookies for a classic US dessert. Now in five outlets across New York, along with a very successful cookbook, this Meatball Shop concept is much watched and copied.

And why not? The fashion for good quality reasonable comfort food is going from strength to strength. The burger trend doesn’t seem to be abating. The roast chicken continues to be rotisseried to an inch of it’s life and the pulled pork is progressing nicely. We love the fact that this food is tasty, relateable and very good value. Clearly the mighty meatball has to be made with expertly sourced quality meat, the sauces should be home-made recipes which can be bottled and sold in the shops and it seems there is an obligatory tongue in cheek sense of humour to be thrown in as well with lots of childish takes on the product name at the core of the marketing. Given all of that as read, the meatball seems to be the obvious choice for future foodie success.

Paris balls t shirt

New York is sorted. Australia have followed suit with The Meatball & Wine Bar in Melbourne which is unapologetic in it’s nod to the NYC original. And now there is a new 40 seater outlet in Paris called… Balls. They are sticking to the Meatball Shop formula too with their menu and their marketing, adding t-shirts with innuendo to buy from the outlet. I am sure the recipe book will follow.

The bowler

Sadly the creatively named Meatballs in Farringdon in London didn’t make it and I wonder why London hasn’t been able to hold onto the fashion in the same way. Perhaps Farringdon wasn’t the best area to open. They sell over 25,000 polpette a year in Russell Norman’s Polpo empire so maybe Soho would have been a better choice of venue. Or perhaps we just need the boys from The Bowler to spread the word in their astroturfed van for a little bit longer, a la Pitt Cue before they progress from street food to the high street permanent location of their choice. They’ve published the cookbook so surely it’s just a matter of time.

Whatever happens, there is no denying that the meatball is here to stay on the best menus in town. Whether chicken, pork, beef, lamb or vegetarian these globes of tastiness are simple, homely and perfect for these frugal times.

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