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CLOSED: The Meatball Factory

  • Restaurant  The Meatball Factory
  • Cuisine  meatball-centric, Italian, pizza
  • Location  231 2nd Avenue (at 14th Street), Manhattan 
  • Phone  212-260-8015
  • Directions  Hopstop
  • Atmosphere  rustic, casual, warm
  • Attire  casual
  • Ideal for  small groups, 1x1, kid-friendly
  • Price  affordable, though prices add up quickly
  • FYI  beer and wine only

I can't tell you when it officially started - or why, for that matter - but lately, I've become obsessed with margaritas and meatballs.  Separately, of course.  And, speaking of 'balls, I've wanted to check out The Meatball Shop for the longest time, but have hesitated due to its insane popularity and, from what I've heard/read, even more insane wait times.

The Meatball Factory, on the other hand, is relatively new to the 'ball arena, having only been open for a matter of months.  Aside from the fact that Top Chef alum, Dave Martin, is in charge of the kitchen, I haven't really heard or read too much about the place.  So, having craved 'balls all month long, I figured that it was high time to give this newcomer a try.

The 1,600 square foot space is hugged by rustic, exposed-brick walls and comprised of a full-sized bar (though not fully stocked), two and four-top tables/chairs, and restrooms for...are you ready for this...men AND women!  "Unisex" stalls do not exist here.  Thank god. 

Phillip, Em, and I arrived for dinner at TMF (The Meatball Factory) at 6:30pm, and were seated immediately.  After we settled in and removed some of our wintry layers, we each ordered a glass of wine.  No margaritas here, folks.  TMF does not serve hard alcohol.

The food menu at TMF is organized like this:  1) Choose a meatball from a selection of eight, including a vegetarian option 2) Choose one of eight sauces to pair with your meatball.  Can't decide on one?  A 3-part sauce sampler will cost you $3 3) Order accompaniments, ie. pizza, pasta, meatball sandwiches, salads, side dishes, or cheese fries. 

So, with that, the three of us decided to split a handful of items and not one, but three sauce samplers.

1 order of "Old School" meatballs, 1 order of "Meatzza, Meatzza" meatballs

The picture, above, doesn't really do the 'balls much justice, but I wanted to give you a visual of how they're presented.  Since we ordered three sauce samplers, our 'balls were served naked, as opposed to swimming in gravy.

"Old School" 'balls: composed of hangar steak, heritage pork, veal, aged asagio cheese, and thyme.  I found these 'balls to be firmly-packed and slightly overcooked.  However, I really enjoyed their robust, garlic-y flavor.  Ideal sauce pairing:  Fire Roasted Marinara, Hells Bells Vodka Sauce, or Meat House.

"Meatzza, Meatzza" 'balls:  composed of braised beef short ribs, hangar steak, filet, buffalo, potato, and parmesan cheese.  I absolutely loved these balls and found them very moist, meaty, and packed with flavor.  The potatoes added a unique creaminess and the cheese produced just the right amount of salt.  Ideal sauce pairing:  Shroom Central, Truffle Time.

"Shrooming" Crispy Crackerbread Pizza

A crunchy, yet perfectly buttered and pillowy crust was liberally topped with a schmear of "Truffle Time" sauce (composed of cream, shallots, brandy, sherry, truffles, fontina, thyme, and oregano), roasted mushrooms, and peppery arugula.   I thoroughly enjoyed this pie, especially when I topped each bite with a hunk of meatball.  Delish!

Dave's World Famous Black Truffle Mac 'N' Cheese

What could possibly be better than mac 'n cheese created with house-made pasta noodles and rich, black truffle?  Not a whole lot, especially if you're my dinner guests, Phillip and Em.  I, on the other hand, prefer the traditional Southern version, chock-full of elbow pasta, cheddar, and Velveeta. 

As you may know, I've grown tired of truffle-mania.  I'm over it.  The flavor, especially that of truffle oil, overwhelms every dish.  That being said, I'm not one to ever "say no" to a plate of mac 'n cheese.  Especially when it's homemade and happens to look as good as it does in my picture, above.  

I loved the use of the corkscrew noodles and the fact that there were actually *real* bits of black truffle in the decadent sauce (which also happened to be the same sauce that served as the base for our pizza)!  The three of us, literally, had a fork-fight over the last noodle.  Luckily, there was plenty of sauce leftover to sop up with bread.    

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Red chili sauce and maple syrup combined to form the sweet and spicy flavor base for this plate of roasted Brussels sprouts.  I could have eaten five more servings of these addictive greens that were lick-the-plate delicious!

Hot Tin Roof Sundae

All I have to see are the words "sea salt caramel," and I'm sold.  No questions asked.  I will order it.

To be honest, I haven't had a sundae since I was about five, so I didn't really remember what one was comprised of until I took my first bite of the Hot Tin Roof.  Here goes:  malted hot fudge, sea salt caramel sauce, candied nutmeg walnuts, and marshmallow-flavored gelato.  Whew!  Wasn't there supposed to be a brownie in there, somewhere?  Maybe, maybe not.  But there should have been.  Something to break up the glop of cloyingly sweet syrups and sauces.  Thankfully, the walnuts added a very necessary textural crunch. 


Midway through our meal, the restaurant was packed!  New Yorker's really do love their meatballs.

In terms of the namesake dish, I think that ordering a sauce sampler is ideal, as we found it to be a little challenging when attempting to pair a specific 'ball with one sauce.   

My friends and I enjoyed ourselves and look forward to returning and sampling more 'balls.  In fact, the three of us have to decided that, for our next dinner date, we'll head over to The Meatball Shop to scope out the competition.

Let the 'ball games begin!


Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

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Reader Comments (2)

Hey...what do you have against unisex bathrooms? For those of us who are gender benders they make life easier. Especially when some heteronormative retard berates us for being in the "wrong" restroom. Just saying.

January 14, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermarty

I love just about everything I've ever had at The Meatball Factory. As far as the debate of Meatball Shop Vs. Meatball Factory, they both have their perks. I'd say they're on equal playing fields as far as the meatballs go.

January 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAustin Scott Brooks

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