WILBRAHAM – How far would you drive for the best meatball you’ve ever had? Well you don’t have to go too far if you head straight to the Meatball Kitchen. With a brand new location in Natick and their original spot in Wilbraham, Meatball Kitchen is the first restaurant in Massachusetts that is totally and completely devoted to meatballs.
Ever since this fun, hundred seat spot first opened its Wilbraham location in 2015, customers have been having a ball. Of course the Meatball Kitchen serves a classic Italian style meatball with red sauce, and we need to get one thing out of the way: these are not your Nana’s meatballs.
“Everybody compares it to their grandmother’s meatballs,” said owner Ralph Santaniello. “I don’t want to insult anyone’s grandmother in any kind of way, but the meatballs are absolutely fantastic.”
With all due respect to grandmothers everywhere, Ralph and general manager Andres Gomez believe the classic Italian meatball recipe is only the beginning.
“It’s one of those comfort foods that transcends all cultures. It can be made in so many different ways,” Ralph pointed out. “Everybody knows which way they make their favorite meatball, and everybody has their own great recipe, but we felt like we could take that concept and elevate it.”
At the Meatball Kitchen there are all kinds of balls served in dozens of delicious ways. In fact, the menu is built like a choose your own adventure book, where customers mix and match to create their own meatball meal.
“You get to be the chef and you get to tell us what it is that you want: what kind of meatball you want; what kind of sauce you want; and then what kind of style,” Andres said.
There’s the classic meatball, made with beef, pork, and veal, an all-beef version with parmesan and ricotta, a chicken meatball, a pork ball, a veggie ball, and an ever changing ball of the day.
Sauce options include fresh tomato, Fra diablo, basil pesto, and mushroom gravy. And when it comes to style, you can get it all over pasta, on a pizza, atop polenta, or in a grinder. The choices are almost endless.
“If you were to do some sort of math, you would see that there are seven different kinds of meatballs, eight if you include whatever the ball of the day is. Then you’re talking six different sauces, and you’re talking eight, maybe nine different styles, depending on what you pick. So it’s hundreds upon hundreds of different possibilities,” said Andres.
If you just can’t decide, the sampler is a good way to go, serving up every ball and sauce on the menu. And if you’d rather just leave the combinations to the kitchen, there are awesome daily specials like Chicken Cordon Bleu Balls stuffed with Swiss cheese; Sweet and Sour Pork Balls with jasmine rice; and buttermilk fried Chicken and Waffle Balls with plenty of maple syrup.
The Meatballs aren’t limited to just entrees. To get the ball rolling on your meal, appetizers include gooey deep fried Mozzarella Balls; spicy Corn Chowder studded with Crab Cake Balls; and addictive Buffalo Chicken Meatballs with celery and blue cheese.
“If you love Buffalo wings, then you’ll love the Buffalo meatballs. I mean it’s got great spice, and with the blue cheese in it, it’s just a perfect match,” Ralph said.
For dessert, instead of meatballs there are sweet balls, like the mini Fried Dough Balls served atop an old fashioned ice cream sundae, and incredibly popular bite-sized Cheesecake Balls.
“We take house made cheesecake; we roll it on some nice graham cracker crust; then that comes on a bed of strawberry sauce, little whipped cream, you’re good to go,” explained Andres.
Rounding out the sweet treats are old fashioned Ice Cream Floats, and an irresistible lineup of Build Your Own Ice Cream Sandwiches, made with fresh baked cookies.
“You’re gonna get to pick a cookie, and then you get to pick your ice cream. You’re gonna get three nice scoops of ice cream, separating that from another cookie that you have chosen. And then we do some marshmallow that we toast right on top with a cherry,” Andres described.
There are simply so many delicious ways to enjoy everything Meatball Kitchen has to offer, and it’s all those choices that keep customers coming back.
“I’ve got people that come here four or five times a week and they still haven’t had the same thing twice, because they’re still working on putting different things together,” Andres said.
“It’s just a great, casual, fun, neighborhood restaurant,” Ralph said. “Hang out, have some really great comfort food, wonderful beers on tap. It’s really high level food, but in a really casual, fun, hip atmosphere.”
You can find Meatball Kitchen at 2000 Boston Post Road in Wilbraham, 1245 Worcester Street in Natick, and online at meatballkitchens.com.
Watch Phantom Gourmet on Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 and 11 a.m. on myTV38.