LITTLE NONNA’S, 1234 Locust Street, Midtown Village
They are luscious. Scrumptious. Good enough to lick the bottom of your plate – except the portion is so large, you’re not likely to get there.
The meatballs at Little Nonna’s, chef Marcie Turney’s cozy spot on Locust, are definitely contenders for the top prize in my Meatball Madness food hunt. I went with a party of four and doubled up on the order – getting Nonni’s Meatballs and Spaghetti (a huge portion for $19), as well as the meatball appetizer on polenta ($11). My dinner mates and I fenced with our forks trying to corner every morsel.
These generous-sized beauties are a mix of beef, veal and pork, seasoned with spices (coriander and fennel seed), herbs, Calabrian chili and soaked bread. Once mixed, they’re stuffed with a wad of fontina cheese which, in the finished product, oozes melted, pungent deliciousness. It’s the delightful surprise in the box of Crackerjacks.
The meatballs are fried, then cooked for about 30 minutes in a pork ragu made with San Marzano tomatoes, pork shoulder and trotters. Then they’re planted on that big bowl of spaghetti, or, with the appetizer, plopped in a soft taleggio polenta.
Pure ecstasy. One of the elite meatballs that I’ve encountered during this contest.
Turney and partner Valarie Safran have done much to rejuvenate the neighborhood around 13th Street between Locust and Chestnut, currently running five restaurants plus a few boutiques. I’m told their meatballs at their Mexican place, Jamonera, have a spicy zest, and the ones at Barbuzzo, a Mediterranean bar, are made from short ribs. Ah, those have to be future dining trips.