While popular contenders for the best meatballs in New York may be Meatball Shop’s Daniel Holzman and Michael Chernow, Gramercy Tavern, and Marco Canora, last night’s Meatball Madness at the New York City Wine & Food Festival crowned a new and unsuspecting winner: Gabe Thompson of L’Apicio.
That’s not to say the rest of the crew didn’t try; Donatella Arpaia won the People's Choice award; Chernow gave out kisses (on the cheek, Mrs. Chernow, no worries) for guest votes, Michael Anthony pulled off an amazing unsauced meatball, and even Joanne Trattoria (owned by Lady Gaga’s parents) showed up with classic Italian balls, named "Germanotta’s Own Meatball." (Chef David Pegoli would not comment on the latest health grade news).
Arpaia (of restaurant Donatella) whipped out her mother’s recipe to win people’s choice. "When it comes to meatballs I stick to the classic," she told The Daily Meal. "This is my mother’s and grandmother’s recipe. [When I was younger] I’d wake up to the smell of garlic and onions in the kitchen and I would always steal meatballs before [my mom] put on the sauce." Even sweeter — her mother was in attendance.
As for the winning meatball among the judges (Giada De Laurentiis, who spend most of the night taking photos with fans, Anne Burrell, Geoffrey Zakarian, and Alex Guarnaschelli), Gabe Thompson served up a classic pork meatball with Amatriciana sauce over polenta. Thompson, wearing what may now be his lucky Budweiser hat, gave the shortest speech ever after winning a competition, ending with "All right I’m gonna go now."
"I didn’t know that there was a contest," he told us afterward. "I knew there was a voting thing and all that but I was just like, oh People’s Choice, whatever, you know. But then they walked around and you send one up, and they’re like, 'Oh we need three more for the judges,' and someone told me that meant there was a chance for us to win."
No worries for Chernow and Holzman fans, though. Next year, Holzman promises, "I’m gonna bring the heat."