Meatball Madness: The Ultimate How-To

The around-the-block guide to attending one of the Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival's signature events

Donatella's meatballs at Meatball Madness 2011.

Let's be clear: there are a few bigger food festival events than Meatball Madness over the course of a calendar year. But not many. Burger Bash in both New York and South Beach maybe. Otherwise, Meatball Madness (technically S. Pellegrino's Meatball Madness hosted by Giada De Laurentiis on first reference) at the Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival is a big one. This year's big event (taking place at 82 Mercer Street from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.) features meatballs by at least 37 different chefs (37, can that really be true?), some by event vets like The Meatball Shop, Pulino's, Donatella, Rubirosa, Hearth, and new participants like Alison EIghteen, Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria, and Carmine's (welcome).

Regardless of who you're handicapping as this year's winner, there are a few truisms to follow:

#1 Don't wear white.

#2 Go hungry, there are 30-plus different meatballs

#3 Get there a little early, remember lines for food are shorter the farther you get away from Giada.

#4 It's pretty much just meatballs. if you want salad, veggies, fish, or anything else, eat it before you get there

#5 The beer and wine are great and all, but this is really about the meatballs.

#6 If you take a bite and don't love it, and that means really love it, throw it out and move onto the next meatball. Don't feel guilty, donate money to the food bank the next day.

#7 Ask everyone you meet what their favorite meatball was, narrow your list from there. Every bite is precious. Don't listen to people that are drunk, really skinny, or look like media — they don't know what they are doing and are there for the wrong reasons.

#8 Drink lots of water before and after. But don't waste valuable stomachs space during. Remember, salt is always the secret ingredient.

#9 There are people who try to eat every meatball. It's possible to accomplish. But if you see them, get out of their way. Do not attempt to interrupt or converse with them. It's called a mission.


#10 "Balls" jokes are bridge-and-tunnel. Don't be tempted. Besides, The Meatball Shop guys will be there.