When it comes to our favorite dishes, more often than not it's best to avoid finding out what makes them great. Ignorance can be oh so blissful. But since taking my first bite of the meatballs at Lucali, I just had to know why they're so insanely delicious.
Apart from these ranking among the best meatballs I've tasted, what piqued my interest is that they're all beef. Traditionally, the ubiquitous Italian dish is made using a combination of veal, pork, and ground beef, so I was curious as to how Lucali serves such an excellent version using only one type of meat.
If you haven't dined at Lucali yet, you owe it to yourself to try the Sunset Harbour outpost of the acclaimed Brooklyn pizzeria. Sure, $24 for a 24-inch pie is steep; however, it can feed two to three people, and the thin, blistered crust is totally worth it.
Made in a wood-burning oven, the pie comes with melted buffalo mozzarella, shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano, and Lucali's famous tomato sauce. Garlic and fresh basil can be added at no charge. Once you start throwing on toppings like Italian artichokes ($8), all-beef pepperoni and shallots ($1.50), things start to get really exciting.
But back to the meatballs (two for $14), which are just as glorious as Lucali's pizzas. I discussed these pillowy spheres with Cristina Ventura, partner and general manager. While the Brooklyn flagship is run by Marc Iacono, his cousin Dominic Cavagnuolo and Ventura hold down the fort in Miami Beach.
The meatballs evolved from a hybrid of family recipes passed down to Iacono and Cavagnuolo. Then some tweaking was done for the 305 location, Ventura explains. Whereas in Brooklyn, veal and pork are part of the mix, it was decided that Sunset Harbour would get an all-beef variation to appeal to the health-conscious neighborhood. This way it's less fatty and "superclean," says Ventura, adding they'll soon offer an even leaner, grass-fed beef meatball.
All of the ingredients currently used are organic, including the mound of fresh ricotta that arrives on the side, the Parmigiano-Reggiano, and the smooth, fragrant tomato sauce that envelopes the meatballs. It's the same sauce smeared on the pizzas, and unfortunately it's a secret recipe.
Ventura says the meatballs sit in the sauce for quite some time, but she emphasizes they're made fresh every day by hand, which gives them a different texture. It's also why Lucali sometimes runs out of the popular appetizer.
The restaurant's goal is to offer a simple meatball that's delicious without being too heavy. "We don't want to make people sick," Ventura says. As for what's next for Lucali, the GM shares turkey meatballs might be in the future.
Considering how delectable and relatively healthful the meatballs are, the eatery can't be blamed for not disclosing any more information. At least now part of the veil of mystery surrounding them has been lifted so we can enjoy the dish even more. In this instance, knowledge is power.
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