RALPH’s, 760 South 9th Street, Italian Market

Ralph’s, in case you don’t know, opened in 1900 and is the oldest continually owned Italian restaurant in the country. It’s being run now by the fourth generation. Jimmy and Eddie Rubino use the same meatball recipe their great grandfather, Francesco, created more than a century ago.

Some greatness never fades.

It’s beef – about 80/20 meat-to-fat ratio – and pork, “for the velvety texture pork adds,” says Jimmy Rubino. No veal, as other places use, because, “I don’t think the veal adds much to the flavor.”

ralphs 2 13. Ralphs

(Photo credit: Glen Macnow/WIP)

The standard spices are all in there: Fresh garlic, fresh parsley, basil, sautéed onions for background flavor and a touch of oregano. “Not too much because it’s overpowering,” says Jimmy. Add the pecorino Romano cheese, and you’ve layers and layers of great flavor.

They’re baked over olive oil at 450 degrees, flipped four times to make sure the entire meatball gets seared and then cooked in gravy.

What you’ve got here is the archetype. Nothing new wave about this Others can aim to reinvent and modernize the meatball, but in this case, the original is tough to top. It’s tender and tasty and the portion is huge enough that you can probably take some home.

Score: 88/100

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