In less than two years, Mad Meatball has established itself as a culinary force in the downtown scene. While not quite a household name, they are host to a loyal following and are winning over new fans with each dish.
A short couple of blocks south of the East Village brought me to the doors of Mad Meatball, and with little to no background on the place, I was flying blind when it came to expectations. Set against an industrial backdrop, Mad Meatball has a décor that is unique to the core.
It’s not quite a cyclist bar, and cannot be called a trendy hotspot. It isn’t straight forward Italian cuisine, and cannot be considered a pizza parlor. It has all of those qualities and tightropes the line between each in an almost graceful way.
The menu is a direct reflection of that modus operandi, and as their name suggests, meatballs play a recurring role in the theme.
Walking hand in hand with the appetizers is a chicken wing menu that serves as an oasis to any wing loving connoisseur. Follow that up with a salad option, and the menu is off to a solid start.
A pasta section of the menu displays a quality assortment of Italian favorites. Traditional spaghetti is here along with The Spicy Mad Italian, which delivers a combination of pasta, pepperoni, red peppers, spicy meatballs and blend of cheeses. A baked pasta and chicken alfredo round out the pasta section as well.
The sandwich side of things offers a Philly Cheesesteak, Meatball Sandwich, Italian Beef, Mad Grinder and Chicken Parmesan. Curiosity the best of me, I selected from the pasta and sandwich side before moving on to the pizza menu. An order of the traditional spaghetti and Chicken Parmesan sandwich was decided upon.
Remember when I mentioned that Mad Meatball is not straight forward Italian cuisine, nor is it a pizza parlor? Here is where that starts to get tricky.
The pizza section, of course, features a Spicy Meatball and Mad Meatball option. Then the curve balls are thrown with a Hawaiian option, Taco, Buffalo Chicken Ranch and a unique Grinder Tater Tot option. Other unique listings and pizza standards are available, as well as a ‘build your own’ option.
I zeroed in on the Mad Meatza, and my order was complete. Awaiting the food delivery, the wait staff was friendly and attentive while I gazed at the assortment of bicycles, retro signage and tasteful décor that surrounded.
The first to arrive was the Chicken Parmesan sandwich. A thick and tender chicken breast is breaded a top a grilled gourmet bun, which has been given a treatment of melted mozzarella cheese. Their homemade red sauce accompanied the plate, along with a basket of fries. The sandwich was masterful. Juicy, seasoned perfectly and a masterful balance of crispy chicken and gooey cheese.
The pizza showed its flavor profile as well. The Mad Meatza plays a balance of pepperoni, capicola, Graziano sausage, bacon and meatballs. Each meat seemed chosen for its own particular merit, which complimented the entire bite. The crust is a thin crust, but no so thin that it cannot stand up to the generous toppings provided.
The traditional spaghetti also showed care in the thick and tender noodles that were bathed in Mad Meatball’s homemade red sauce. Topped with signature Mad Meatballs and aside a slice of garlic bread, I was more than happy with my choice.
Mad Meatball has found a really great balance between relaxed bar stop and quality restaurant, an achievement not easily won. Also won- this man’s taste buds!
401 S.E. Fifth St.
Open daily, 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.