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The Little Owl's Gravy Meatball Sliders Recipe

Gravy Meatball Sliders
Arthur Bovino

Gravy Meatball Sliders

These iconic meatball sliders have made this notoriously difficult to-get-into West Village restaurant famous. (The fact that The Little Owl is in the building where the Friends show supposedly aired also attracts quite a few tourists). Either make the specialty buns below, or use store-bought ones to save time. — Yasmin Fahr


For the buns:

  • 1 ½ cup warm water         
  • ¼ ounce fresh yeast
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 bulbs of whole roasted garlic
  • Salt and pepper
  • Freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese

For the meatballs:

  • 1 pound ground beef           
  • 1 pound ground pork      
  • 1 pound ground veal
  • 1 cup freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley (reserve 1 tablespoon of chopped parsley)
  • 2 cups cold water      
  • Salt and pepper                                                      
  • 3 cups vegetable oil for cooking
  • 1 chopped Spanish onion
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh garlic
  • 1 bunch fresh basil
  • Two 28-ounce cans of whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seed


For the buns:

In an electric mixing bowl using the hook attachment, mix the warm water, yeast, olive oil and molasses. Add the flour and the salt. The dough will become a wet mixture but will remain a little sticky. Remove the dough onto a floured clean surface and gently knead into a soft ball. Place the dough in a mixing bowl brushed with olive oil and cover. Store in a warm humid area for 30 minutes or until the dough rises to double its size.

Wrap 2 bulbs of whole garlic in aluminum foil and roast in a medium heat oven until very soft. Squeeze the whole bulbs of garlic to release the soft interior. Slightly chop the roasted garlic until it resembles a puree. Portion the dough into 1-inch round balls and knead in the roasted garlic while doing so. Place the prepared portioned raw dough balls on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper approximately 2 inches apart.

Cover with plastic and allow the dough balls to re-rise again. After 20 minutes spray the raw dough balls with cold water, sprinkle with a pinch of the freshly grated pecorino, salt and pepper and bake for 20 minutes in a 400 degree oven.

For the meatballs:

Mix the ground meat together with the cheese (reserve a pinch for garnish), eggs, bread crumbs, and three quarters of the amount of chopped parsley, cold water, salt and pepper. Roll the balls to same shape as the buns.

In a large shallow sauce pot heat the vegetable oil. Pan fry the meatballs until thoroughly browned. Remove the meatballs and add to the same pan, the chopped Spanish onion, chopped fresh garlic, basil, and remaining parsley and fennel seed. Cook together for 5-8 minutes until the vegetables brown slightly. Add the tomatoes and using the can fill half way with water and add the water to the sauce. Cook the sauce 30 minutes, pass through a food mill and continue cooking. Add the meatballs back to the sauce and cook the meat balls in the sauce for an additional 30 minutes.

Cut the baked garlic buns in half and toast the cut side. Top the meatballs with grated pecorino and chopped parsley and reheat to melt the cheese. Assemble the sliders and use a skewer to keep them from sliding all over the place.  You can also use some fresh arugula leaves under the sliders for color garnish and to keep them from slipping around.