I don’t know how you feel about meatballs. As for me, it’s not like I grew up in an Italian family with the off-the-boat grandma making the sauce all day, but I’m rather fond of Italian-American cooking and especially meatballs. Clever and long-time readers may remember this, as well as my worship of a particular ex-girlfriend’s iteration, with the recipe having been passed down from some Sicilian ancestor.
What you don’t know was how much trouble that worship got me into with the (different) girl I was dating at the time I wrote the article. I summarily put meatballs on total menu blackout, lest I have dug my hole deeper. In fact, I don’t think I’ve had a single meatball in months, merely because the thought was enough to make me break out in hives for a good long while after the relationship ended.
I’m not sure why I’m telling you this (in fact, I’m fairly certain that I will regret writing it), but I only mean to illustrate how much I appreciate a good meatball, that I’ve suffered for them, and that I have been without a source for good ones for far too long.
Thanks again to the NYT list of heroes, I can say I have an acceptable place to go when I have the urge for a meatball hero: Salumeria Biellese, on 8th Avenue at the corner of 29th Street, is a small lunch-counter-sans-actual-counter kind of place. Plastic covered tables are available to dine in, with Tabasco and hot pepper flakes being the only condiments, and napkin dispensers being the only other table accoutrement. While I suppose one could dine in more luxury at the attached Italian restaurant next door, why bother?
The smell as I walked in today was enough to convince me that I’d arrived at the right place, and a quick inspection of the glass case made me even happier. Sausage, cheesy red-sauced pastas, and a giant parmesan rind gave me great hope that this would be, finally, an Italian-American place that I could recommend as cost-effective and delicious.
The meatballs didn’t let me down. At $4.75 (75 cents more for cheese), the large meatball hero is a petite-looking force of nature. The meatballs are ladled out of their receptacle on the steam table and plopped down on a delicious piece of sesame bread, which they then proceed to totally destroy and rebuild as sauce-sop. This is not a sandwich for mobile eating, folks – get it to stay and peer out the window at the passing crowd of Fashion Institute of Technology students (or eavesdrop on your fellow diners’ conversations – I got lucky and heard about someone comparing their shrink and their analyst today, but that’s neither here nor there).
If you go to FIT, you should be thankful to have a place like this in your close proximity, nearby cafeteria be damned. As I chowed down on the lovely meatballs and the sauce-and-grease-laden sesame bread, I pondered how often I could reasonably escape uptown for a sandwich. Fortunately, the round trip took less than an hour, so I feel like the answer is “as often as I choose,” which certainly agrees with my budget. $4.75?!? Astonishing.