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.
Devoted foodies and restaurant newbies love The Feed. Sign-up now for our twice weekly newsletter.
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.
Over at his new Italian restaurant in Harvard Square, Michelin-starred chef Mark Ladner is so (rightfully) confident in his meatball recipe that he serves a single gigante orb as the order. The baseball-sized meatball is made with pork, veal, beef, and sweet and spicy sausages, all bound together by mashed potato instead of breadcrumbs. The secret ingredient, though, is this: Ladner folds in chunks of dry-rubbed brisket and pork shoulder he gets from his Harvard Square neighbor (and former culinary-school classmate) Andy Husbands of the Smoke Shop BBQ.
1 Bennett St., Cambridge, 617-661-5050, bar-enza.com.
The closest thing to the North End in South Boston, Capo boasts meatballs that stand up to those found in the most red-sauce-splattered part of town. Chef Nicholas Dixon’s beef-and-pork balls make for the perfect antipasti on their own, but they’re also delicious sidled in a meatball sandwich, or miniaturized and topped with burrata for sliders during brunch. Plus, Capo has two other things going for it that the North End doesn’t: Weekly “Sinatra Sunday Dinner Shows,” when live crooning fills the restaurant’s downstairs “supper club” space, and Tuesday “Gluten-free Nights,” when the allergy-conscious kitchen kicks wheat products to the curb. It’s a rare chance for those with Celiac’s to dine out on pasta-and-meatball plates worry-free.
443 W Broadway, South Boston, 617-993-8080, caposouthboston.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 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.
Only a few months ago, chef Will Gilson finally opened the doors to Geppetto, his third and final restaurant at Cambridge Crossing, a new mixed-use development. (Gilson’s new Italian eatery joined his pastry-stuffed Cafe Beatrice and rooftop restaurant The Lexington, which opened back in 2020.) One clear 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. They’re so popular, they’re one of the few plates that were carried over from a takeout-only menu that Wilson offered to preview Geppeto last year.
100 North First St., Cambridge, 617-945-1349, thelexingtoncx.com/geppetto.
Sadly, the COVID economy caused chef Dante de Magistris to close his 15 year-old namesake Cambridge restaurant shortly after the initial 2020 shutdown. 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.
Although it opened as the most upscale entry in star chef Tiffani Faison’s family of Boston restaurants, the Chopped judge recently announced that her glam Fenway-neighborhood restaurant would pivot toward comforting Italian-American classics—saltimbocca- and marsala-style dishes, for instance—for the winter months ahead. Luckily, the stalwart “meatballs alla Raia” will remain on the menu, sopping up culinary director Dan Raia’s “family gravy” alongside whipped ricotta (and topped with a sprinkling of crunchy Parmesan).
1391 Boylston St., Boston, 617-916-9600, orfanoboston.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.
There’s no doubt that chef Jen Royle has one of the biggest personalities in Boston. Well, she has some of the most massive meatballs too, and they’re a cornerstone of the multi-course, communal meals she offers nightly at her North End restaurant, Table. Made of beef, veal, and pork, and paired with house made ricotta, they’re also available via takeout, if you’re not up for balling out with big groups at the moment.
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 dinner hours. 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 during any dinner service, or hit up the catering menu for a family-sized pan to feast on at home.
111 N Washington St., Boston, 617-580-0321, tonyandelaines.com.