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Sicilian-Style Meatballs

Sicilian-Style Meatballs
I knew I wasn’t the only one who loved meatballs when I read about “The Meatball Shop” in the New York Times.  The place, which is at 84 Stanton Street on the Lower East Side, opened just 6 weeks ago. It sells only meatballs. 2-ounce meatballs of all kinds—beef, pork, chicken, salmon, vegetables–plus a weekly special.  They’re served with 4 kinds of sauce and focaccia ($7.00), as a slider ($3.00) or on a baguette ($9.00).  I can hardly wait to go. However, between the time I wrote this and this posting, the Times wrote a rather sad lament about the Meatball Ball Shop in a mini-review last week.  So I encourage you to try these. Because I can vouch for how sensational the recipe I followed for Sicilian Meatballs in Food and Wine magazine.
Frank Castronovo and his partner Frank Falcinelli created the original recipe.  They are passionate Sicilian cooking fans and practice their art at two New York locations:  The Frankie’s Spuntino, 457 Court St., Brooklyn, 718-403-0033; and at 17 Clinton St., New York City, 212-253-2303. (On Clinton St., they’re 5 blocks from The Meatball Shop….hmmmm).
Just what makes a meatball Sicilian?  Two ingredients seem to give the ball its name:  Dried Currants and Pinoli nuts.  Neither seems to overwhelm the garlic-y flavor but both are clearly there—the tiny little currants suddenly give you a pop of fruit and the pignolis a subtle crunch.  But overwhelmingly what have you is the most tender meatball I’d ever tasted.  Melt-in-your-mouth tender.  If you follow this blog, you likely know that when bread of any kind is called for in recipes for everything from meatloaf to crabcakes, I love to use Brioche buns and Challah bread to do the job.  These egg-y alternatives to plain white bread or worse–those horrendous dried breadcrumbs people seem to keep in their pantries for life—keep everything moister than their alternatives.  So I suppose I’ve just knocked a little Sicilian out of the dish because, let’s face it, Brioche is French and Challah is Jewish.  But they both do a lot for my Sicilian meatballs.  I served them as Spaghetti and Meatballs but I am sure they’d give The Meatball Shop a run for its money as sliders or heroes.  Here’s the recipe:

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