Saturday, May 23, 2009

A battle to end all battles

Last week I attended Dish du Jour Magazine’s 8th Annual “Cuisine of Queens and Beyond” event, held at the stately Astoria World Manor in Astoria, Queens. Inside a grand ballroom, attendees sampled and sipped their way through offerings from over 55 local restaurants, gourmet shops, bakeries, and wine and beer companies. All of the food was delicious, but the crowds were here for one reason and one reason only: to take part in the “Meatball Melee,” a competition in which ten carefully chosen New York City restaurants entered their well-honed meatball recipes for judging, seeking the ultimate title of Best Meatball in the Boroughs. The finalists included Agnanti of Queens; Carmine’s and Bello Giardino of Manhattan; Ignazio’s Pizza of Brooklyn; Pastosa Ravioli of Staten Island; and five others.

All ten restaurants offered up their meatballs for tasting at the event. Many different styles were represented, including delicate, lamb-based, pine nut-studded Greek spheres; heavy, meaty, red-sauce Italian-American-style orbs the size of baseballs; golden-fried specimens and balls that were poached directly in their sauce. After I had tasted all ten, I had a clear winner in mind. But it was up to the celebrity judges--including Michael Psilakis of Anthos and Kefi fame and Frank Pelligrino, actor and co-owner of the venerable Rao’s restaurant in Harlem—to award the title. After tasting and commenting on all ten entries, the judges declared Bello Giardino’s “Nicky’s Famous Meatball” the winner. Here's my sample:

What an upset! This meatball wasn't my favorite. It had an ultrafine texture—the result of using meat that is ground three times—and was tightly packed and then fried crispy in oil. Very tasty (try naming a fried food that isn’t)—but the meatball that won my heart was the offering from Carmine’s. This was a huge, loosely packed meatball chock-full of chopped fresh parsley and an obscene amount of grated Romano cheese. Browned very lightly before being simmered in a rich tomato sauce, it was extremely moist, tender, and flavorful. Check out this luscious tray full of 'em:

Oh well--as with any food, it’s a matter of taste.

Find the recipe for the winning meatball here and the recipe for the underdog—Carmine’s meatball—here.


Anonymous said...

Have to agree with you, the winning meatball was not on my top ball list. I like Carmines, and Molyvos. They were both different but both very good. Nicky Meatballs was pretty excited about his win and was shaking. Nice guy wrong ball.

Nina said...

I want to try Carmine's recipe! They look fantastic!
Another great blog entry from my favorite food writer!

Anonymous said...

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