AMIS TRATTOTIA, 412 South 14th Street

It took us five attempts to get into this bustling little gem of a spot in Midtown Village. No reservations available. No walkups. Finally, we decided to eat like septuagenarians, and successfully made a Tuesday 5:15 p.m. reservation. We dined al fresco at little tables along 13th Street and drank wine while watching the trees bloom in April. A beautiful 70-degree late afternoon.

And, oh yes, it was worth the wait and the effort and early dining call. The food overall, and the meatballs specifically, make Amis one of the truly wonderful finds of this marathon Meatball Madness tour.

Chef Brad Spence is partners with the great Marc Vetri in owning Amis. And it is Vetri’s father, Sal, whose recipe serves as inspiration for “Sal’s Old School Meatballs,” a $10 appetizer that is one of many highlights on this menu.

It’s a fairly simple recipe – beef, veal and pork, all bought from George L. Wells Meats, one of the city’s top purveyors. There are most of the standard spices, along with a hefty amount of pecorino and parmesan. And more breadcrumbs than usual.

“Bread is part of the trick,” says Spence. “Back in the day, they used bread to stretch out the meat, so a lot of people consider bread just to be filler. But the breadcrumbs serve a real role. They absorb the juices and keep the meatball from drying out. That’s why ours are so tender.”

Oh, indeed they are. Tender and tangy, swimming in “tomato potato,” a succulent light orange sauce of mashed potatoes stirred with tomato. The meatballs were crispy outside and soft in the middle because, says Spence, he sears them and cooks them in just six minutes. “You wouldn’t cook a hamburger for three hours,” he argues, “So why would you do that with a meatball?”

All in all, this was among the elite meatballs we’ve tried in taste and texture. We’ll be back at Ami’s – even if we have to have dinner at 4 p.m. next time.

Score: 95/100

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