Posts tagged ‘New York’

December 7, 2011

4plates Meatballs Marinara

Frankies Spuntino 17 Clinton Street NYC

According to Mario Batali, there are two types of Italians, people who are Italian and people who want to be Italian. My husband Alan wants to be Italian. He loves the Sopranos and the Godfather 1 & 2, fine Italian suits and shoes. He dreams of owning a Ferrari. He loves Barolo and Chianti, prosciutto and spicy sopressata, taleggio and mozzarella, and anything covered in good marinara. He enjoys watching Lidia’s cooking shows with me and has been known to spend a Sunday afternoon watching a few episodes of David Rocco’s Dolce Vita. Drooling, as David Rocco takes us on his escapades through Italy, as he drinks red wine in small juice glasses and eats simple Italian food. Rocco takes us to all the places Alan reminds me “we’ve never been!” – which translates to anywhere in Italy. We will go someday. For the moment, this love of all things Italian takes us hunting in New York City for a famous meatball.

An avid reader of Vanity Fair, GQ and Esquire magazine, my husband always finds food articles that spark his need to go to New York City. After learning of the critical acclaim Frankies Spuntino’s meatballs received, we were on a mission. Our drive into the city was fast and easy on a Saturday morning. Once parked, we schlepped our way from SOHO to Clinton Street to Frankies. Founded in 2004 by Frank Castronovo and Frank Falcinelli, their original location is in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. They have since opened two locations in Manhattan and written a cookbook, The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual.  Upon finding the restaurant, we grabbed two meatball parm sandwiches and ate them in seconds sitting on a stoop on the street. With tomato sauce dripping down my sleeves, I could understand what all the fuss was about. Raisins and pine nuts were peeking out of these moist meatballs. They were uniquely delicious. Ladled with simple marinara and served on crunchy salted focaccia bread, we washed them down with an ice-cold Coke and headed back to SOHO to enjoy the day. Mission completed and highly recommended. Upon further research, I have found Frankies meatball recipe in Bon Appetit. I’m amazed at how much garlic they use in their sauce, 13 cloves!

Frankies Spuntino Meatball Parm

The sandwiches didn’t satisfy our meatball cravings completely, so I decided to make some for dinner the next night. My meatball inspiration comes from Anne Burrell. She gives two pieces of advice for making meatballs. First, add water to your meat mixture. It should feel pretty wet and squishy and it makes for a really moist meatball. Second, before you form your meatballs, make a little test patty, fry it up and eat it! This is a great way to see that your meat mixture is super flavorful and you can adjust seasonings as needed. Here’s my adapted meatball recipe. Trust me, they’re really fantastic!

4plates Meatballs Marinara


  • 1 large yellow onion, small dice
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 – 28oz cans crushed tomatoes
  • 2 – 28oz cans chef cut tomatoes (or use whole plum tomatoes & squish them with your hands)
  • 1/2 of an empty 28oz can of water
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (or more if you like it spicy)
  • Kosher salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp good red wine
  • 10 or so fresh basil leaves, torn if large

In a large stock pot, add a little olive oil and sauté the onion on medium heat until translucent. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, about a minute. Pour in the tomatoes and add the water. Add the spices, wine and basil leaves. Give a really good stir and bring to a strong simmer, then reduce to a gentle simmer and allow to cook for a few hours – the longer the better. Taste along the way to check for reseasoning. Remember to remove the bay leaves before serving.

* I always use Cento brand tomatoes. They have Chef Cut style and I really like their consistency. I know we all have our allegiances to specific canned tomato brands… use what you like best.

* Be sure to taste the sauce after about an hour of cooking. The acidity of the canned tomatoes can really vary. If the tomatoes are very acidic, a little sugar will do the trick. I generally will reseason as it cooks, adding a little more wine, salt and pepper, etc… Once you add the meatballs to the sauce it will take on a delicious, rich flavor. Remember, whether you’re just making the marinara or both the meatballs and sauce, the longer it cooks the better it will be.

INGREDIENTS FOR THE MEATBALLS (Makes about 32 oversized golf ball meatballs)

  • 1 large onion, small dice
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 lbs ground beef
  • 2 cups seasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 cups grated Parmesan cheese or combination Parmesan & Pecorino Romano
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 4 eggs
  • Kosher salt & pepper
  • 1 cup of water (give or take)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Add a little olive oil to a frypan and sauté the onions until they soften and become translucent. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, about a minute. Add some salt and pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Stir and remove from the heat, allow to cool.

In a large bowl, add the ground beef, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, parsley and eggs. Using your hands, squish the mixture around. Add the cooled onion mixture, season with salt and pepper, squish again. Begin to add the water, a 1/2 cup first and squish. Continue to add more water (a little at a time) as needed until it begins to feel quite wet. You might not use the whole cup of water.

Make a little test patty and fry it up in the pan you used for the onions (no need to dirty another pot). Once it’s cooked through, taste it. It should be really yummy! If it’s not flavorful enough add a little more salt and/or more Parmesan cheese.

Make the meatballs the size you like. We like them to look like golf balls on steroids. I prefer to just bake them in the oven and then add them to the pot of sauce. If you grew up frying them first, feel free. Roll the meatballs and lay them on rimmed sheet pans. Bake them in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes, until they feel firm. Remove them from the oven and add them to the sauce to finish cooking. Simmer in the sauce for at least an hour, preferably two or more. The longer it cooks, the better.


* The reality is, meatballs are work. If I’m going to the trouble to make this, I make a lot. You could cut the recipe in half for both the sauce and meatballs, but why bother? They freeze beautifully and they’re so good. You can have spaghetti and meatballs, meatball sandwiches, meatball pizza, or just more meatballs.

September 26, 2011

An Italian Weekend in New York

It was a crisp, beautiful fall weekend in New York City. It was a humid, overcast fall weekend in New York City. The kind of weather that reeks havoc on your hair, forces you to carry an umbrella you’ll never use and has you grabbing a sweater as you gaze out your hotel window – only to find as you step outside, an unseasonably warm and sticky day. Here’s the conversation that goes on between my husband and me before we leave the hotel…

Do you think it’s going to rain? I’m not sure, the Weather Channel said it’s only a 20% chance. Are you wearing those shoes? They’re terrible in the rain. Should we risk not bringing umbrellas? It really looks like it might rain. Just bring your big purse and you can carry the umbrellas… along with all the rest of my stuff.  Women carry many of the great burdens in life – and everyone’s stuff. Someone please bring back the man bag.

Fortunately neither the weather nor how heavy my purse is, can ever squelch my family’s appetite for shopping and food. The annual Feast of San Gennaro was taking place in Little Italy and I was determined to find time to investigate Eataly… the newest enterprise by Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich. Things were looking up when we arrived at the hotel – a surprise room upgrade… my 13-year-old daughter was thrilled! Free wi-fi and a huge Apple desktop were waiting in the room. “No! The room is for sleeping,” we announced and off we went to wander around SOHO. Determined not to eat anything, saving our appetites for San Gennaro (patiently waiting for meatballs and gelato), we enjoyed the shopping and pushing our way through the crowds on the narrow sidewalks. Still, no rain and the purse is damn heavy! After some successful finds at our favorite store Uniqlo (if you haven’t been, it’s a must!) we headed back to drop things at the hotel and walked over to Little Italy.

I hadn’t been to the Feast of San Gennaro in years. All I could remember from that time was the smell of sausage and peppers, so you know it was on my list of street foods to conquer. My husband, who had never been, wasn’t sure what to expect. I think he didn’t care what they had as long as it was dripping in good marinara and included some type of smoked Italian meat product. My daughter, with her equally healthy appetite was ready! A walk down Canal Street from our Tribeca hotel landed us at the entrance of the feast. Blammo! A crowd that you can’t imagine. Who are all these people? Dressed in variations of Yankee spiritwear, the colors of the Italian flag and Snooki’s stilettos. I felt oddly both under-dressed and the best dressed, in my jeans and sneakers. Holding on to any part of my daughter so not to lose her, the three of us made our way through the crowd. If only there were fewer people, we could have had the meatballs and sausage we were waiting all day for.

A quick decision led us to eat in a restaurant called Pelligrino’s. It had a sign out front noting it was Zagat rated with a 23 for food. Pretty good. Zagat is like Wine Spectator – it’s a slight guarantee that you won’t be disappointed. We weren’t. A big artichoke stuffed with garlic and breadcrumbs and rice balls (Arancini) to start. Yummy. Rigatoni Bolognese for two of us and chicken parmesan for the third. Everything was very good. Our only complaint was it was hot in there. Service was spot-on and friendly too. Not sure we’d go back, because there are so many other great places to eat Italian food in the city.

Working our way out of the festival, we happily stumbled upon perfectly creamy gelato… my husband coincidentally stumbled on zeppoles and torrone too. No comment. Would I recommend the Feast of San Gennaro? If you haven’t been, it’s worth going once. The crowds were insane, but the people watching was entertaining.

Back to our Jewish roots in the morning, we swung by Zabar’s for bagels, lox, whitefish, rye bread and chopped liver to bring for lunch with family. Is there anything better than the rye bread from Zabars? I don’t think so! Truly its own culinary experience, if you haven’t poked around Zabars you’re missing out. Chocolate Hamantaschen, outstanding! Worth the trip.

Finally, Eataly… what I’d been waiting for and it was amazing! The place was packed at 7 o’clock on a Sunday night. Imagine every Italian ingredient and food experience under one roof. From fresh meats and cheeses, to wine and produce… a little housewares department with great tools and funky serveware & an impressive assortment of condiments, olive oils and vinegars. They had a little section of just anchovies and so much pasta to choose from it was mind-boggling. At this point, my daughter looked and me, smiled and said “you love it here, don’t you?” She was right.

Whether you’re looking to sit and enjoy a meal or shop in the market, Eataly’s 50,000 square foot space satisfies your Italian cravings for certain. Still full from our Zabar’s lunch, we didn’t eat dinner while we were there, so I can’t pass along opinions on the food. It all looked great! People were wandering around with a glass of wine and shopping… it was an extraordinary experience. My inability to find a knowledgeable sales person to help me shop the olive oils was the only annoyance during our visit. Let me tell you, we didn’t get out empty-handed…. look at all the goodies we scored! And check out my new orange Eataly apron above! Don’t you just love it!

* Did you figure out what the sign says above? It’s on the side of the Eataly shopping bag. It means, “The only thing about this bag that matters is what you put inside.” 

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