Where to Find the Best Meatballs in Boston Right Now
Whether swimming in tomato sauce or served on mounds of spaghetti, these are the spicy standouts you need to try.
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Great meatballs can make a meal. But where’s the best beef—and pork, and lamb? Check out these meatballs that hit it out of the park.
There’s a contemporary sheen to the dining room at this celeb-courting North End restaurant, whose VIP wall offers testimony to the pro athletes that pop in for the polpetta. Here, those meatballs, named for chef-owner Massimo Tiberi’s mother, Rosalie, are a 50-50 blend of veal and beef. They’re baked for an hour, then slow-simmered in garlicky red sauce—and they wind up a standout on Arya’s modern-meets-Old World menu.
253 Hanover St., Boston, 617-742-1276, aryatrattoria.com.
James Beard award-winning chef Ron Suhanosky has launched a new “meal subscription” service out of his pint-sized space just outside the city: Clients can now sign up to receive cast iron pots, filled with inspired Italian cookery, delivered to their doorstep multiple days a week. If you’re lucky, you might find inside Suhanosky’s super supple meatballs, based on his grandmother’s recipe, that combine beef, pork, ricotta cheese, and dried oregano to amazing effect. Rather not take your chances? Don’t worry—the meatballs are also available (in multiple meal-sized quantities of 18) via the standard takeout menu.
3A Boylston St., Chestnut Hill, chefronskys.com.
Star chefs Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette know when to try something new—and when to stick to the tried and true. To the former point: Note Ghost King Thai, an exciting, spicy fried chicken-filled pop-up they’ve just launched out of the kitchen of their South End restaurant Toro. To the latter point: See the absolutely perfect polpetta at nearby Coppa, which haven’t changed since the place opened 10 years ago. They’re still made with pork belly, pork shoulder and beef chuck, and braised in a tomato sauce seasoned with loads of ground salumi.
253 Shawmut Ave., Boston, 617-391-0902, coppaboston.com.
In January, chef Will Gilson opened his third and final venue at Cambridge Crossing, a new mixed-use development: Geppetto, Gilson’s new Italian eatery, joins his pastry-stuffed Cafe Beatrice and rooftop restaurant The Lexington, which opened in October and November, respectively. Geppetto is only offering takeout and delivery for now, so order up an early standout—the crispy meatballs, held together by a shield of fried breadcrumbs, served in a fabulous tomato-brown butter sauce and dusted with parmesan cheese.
100 North First St., Cambridge, thelexingtoncx.com/geppetto.
Sadly, the COVID economy caused chef Dante de Magistris to close his 15 year-old namesake Cambridge restaurant last May. Happily, though, his Il Casale restaurants are still chugging along at their suburban locations within a historic Belmont firehouse and charming, Campania-inspired dining room in Lexington. Both spots offer “nonna’s meatballs,” a half-dozen offering of pork and beef polpette in tomato ragú, flecked with basil and pecorino romano.
There’s a glorious dose of umami in the meatballs at Pammy’s, which has remained one of the Boston area’s hottest restaurants even in a pandemic. That flavor comes from the white miso and duck fat that chef Chris Willis imbues in his beef and pork balls, which are spiced with fennel seed, mace, and more. They also enjoy a luscious texture, owing to Willis’s substitute for boring breadcrumbs: He adds density using a panade of white corn tortillas and caramelized onions, and the results are remarkable whether you enjoy them via takeout or during one of Pammy’s on-site Sunday Supper services.
928 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-945-1761, pammyscambridge.com.
Though restaurateur Nick Varano recently sold most of his Strega spots to the same new, New England-based hospitality group that also purchased Legal Sea Foods, he’s retained the original location. That North End home is where you’ll find Mamma’s Famous Meatballs, based on Rosetta Varano’s recipe of veal and beef, Parmesan cheese, mushrooms and spices; they’re accompanied by a small mound of homemade ricotta.
379 Hanover St., Boston, 617-523-8481, stregabynickvarano.com.
We miss gathering around the communal table at chef Jen Royle’s North End restaurant, where sharing plates with strangers during her nightly set dinners is a huge part of the appeal. But until the pandemic abates and we can gather in groups again, at least her massive meatballs of beef, veal, and pork, paired with house made ricotta, are available via takeout; you can also swing by Royle’s new, neighboring market, Table Mercato, to pick them up alongside other prepared foods and Italian groceries. (Take note: Table reopens for seated service in February, though for small, individual parties only.)
445 Hanover St., Boston, 857-250-4286, tableboston.com.
The simple, superb meatballs, once featured in Bon Appétit, are a signature at chef Chris Douglass’s beloved neighborhood ristorante. Made with beef, pork, and veal, you’ll find them swimming in marinara as an appetizer, tossed with tangles of house made pasta, and—on the restaurant’s “family-style” takeout menu—sold by the dozen or paired with sausage and pepperoni to top sheet trays of Meat Lovers pizza.
1918 Dorchester Ave., Dorchester, 617-822-1918, tavolodotave.com.
Thistle & Leek
The new Newton Centre standout Thistle & Leek looks to lamb for its meatballs, available during lunch and dinners hours and offered also frozen—ready to heat and serve—through the restaurant’s pantry-stuffing Larder menu. As a nod to the London gastropubs that inspired Thistle & Leek, they’re served with a tomato and ginger curry; sop up the excess with a side of garlic flatbread.
105 Union St., Newton, 857-404-0260, thistleandleek.com.
Tony & Elaine’s
Even before the restaurant’s doors officially opened in 2018, Tony & Elaine’s managed to take home the title of the North End’s Best Meatballs at the Fisherman Feast’s first-annual competition. Wondering why? Swing by to try the beef, pork, and prosciutto-made meatballs spiced with chili flakes and slow-cooked for hours. You can order them a la carte anytime, or make a point to visit during Spaghetti & Meatball Mondays, when they are served (on-site and via takeout) in family-sized portions with unlimited garlic bread.
111 N Washington St., Boston, 617-580-0321, tonyandelaines.com.