It’s no surprise that the author of a cookbook called Italian, My Way would be opinionated about meatballs; Jonathan Waxman, chef-owner of Barbuto, is certainly that. Having noted the explosion of meaty orbs in recent years, we enlisted Waxman to taste-test some notable balls around town, at Corsino, Frankie’s 570 Spuntino, Co., Donatella, the Meatball Shop, and the little owl. Though Waxman doesn’t keep meatballs on Barbuto’s regular menu (“It’s a little bit cliché”), he’ll occasionally serve them as a special “maybe once a month; it doesn’t have to be the same mixture all the time.” And as we toured, Waxman proved his meatball connoisseurship: “The marriage of the sauce and the meatball is the most important thing, because it really is a braised dish, almost a stew,” he explained. “A meatball sounds simple,” he continued, “but then you get into the science of it.” To Waxman, that means flavor, moisture, how it’s cooked, and yes, size matters, too: “Golf ball is the perfect size.” We asked Waxman to rate the various balls on a scale of one to five, and while “we never found our five” (as the toque lamented), we did have a clear winner. See our slideshow to learn which ball prevailed.
Waxman opens wide. Photo: Melissa Hom