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How to Make the Meatballs of Frankies Spuntino in Brooklyn

A charming anecdote regarding the origins of the meatballs served at Frankie's Spuntino accompanies this coveted recipe.

By Frank Castronovo & Frank Falcinelli

9:35 AM EDT on April 15, 2024

The meatballs at Frankies Spuntino in Brooklyn.

EDITORIAL NOTE: The following excerpt is from The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual. The text has been edited for clarity.

In the 90s, Frank Falcinelli befriended a guy in his late 40s with big thick glasses, a beard, and a shock of gray hair named Tony Durazzo. A trained draftsman, Tony was born in Naples and raised in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. He used to sneak into the Fillmore East back in the 1960s and hitchhiked from coast to coast in the 1970s. He had a million stories to tell, and he and Frank lived right around the corner from each other in the West Village. 

Tony told Frank all about his family’s food, about the way they cooked, and about how they made the best meatballs. One day, Tony fried up a batch of those meatballs and walked them downstairs and around the corner. The meatballs were still warm when he arrived at Frank's. They weren’t in sauce, just loose in a baking pan, topped with grated parmesan that had largely fallen off during the trip. On first meeting, Tony had told Frank, “I’m not a cook.” It was only partly the truth. 


Related: Brooklyn Restaurant Group Frankies Goes to Nashville


Falcinelli didn’t think the meatballs were good. He thought they were great. They reminded him of the meatballs he was raised on, but Tony’s addition of pine nuts and raisins pushed them to the next level. The two joked about setting up a food cart serving meatballs. Nothing came of it. But a decade later, the seeds of the plan—those meatballs—grew into the Spuntino. From 2004 until his passing a couple of years ago, Tony did his daily work and storytelling from a drafting table right in Frank and Frank's office. 

Please note that ground beef for meatballs should clock in at around 10% fat. Meat that’s too fatty makes for flabby, greasy meatballs. 

The Meatballs of Frankies Spuntino

The Meatballs of Frankies Spuntino

Recipe by Frank Castronovo and Frank Falcinelli
0.0 from 0 votes
Servings

4

servings
Prep time

30

minutes
Cooking time

40

minutes

Ingredients

  • For the Meatballs
  • 4 slices 4 bread (2 packed cups)

  • 2 pounds 2 ground beef

  • 3 cloves 3 garlic, minced

  • 1/4 cup 1/4  finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

  • 1/4 cup 1/4 grated Pecorino Romano, plus about 1 cup for serving

  • 1/4 cup 1/4 raisins

  • 1/4 cup 1/4 pine nuts

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons 1 1/2 fine sea salt

  • 15 15 turns white pepper

  • 4 large 4 eggs

  • 1/2 cup 1/2 dried breadcrumbs

  • For the Tomato Sauce
  • 1 cup 1 olive oil

  • 13 cloves 13 garlic

  • One One 96-ounce can (or, if you can find it, 1-kg) or four 28-ounce cans Italian tomatoes

  • 1 large 1 pinch red pepper flakes

  • 2 teaspoons 2 fine sea salt

Directions

  • To Make the Meatballs
  • Heat the oven to 325°F.
  • Put the fresh bread in a bowl, cover it with water, allowing it to soak for a minute.
  • Pour off the water and wring out the bread, then crumble and tear it into little pieces.
  • Combine the bread with all of the remaining ingredients except the tomato sauce in a medium mixing bowl, adding them in the order that they are listed.
  • Add the dried breadcrumbs last to adjust for wetness; the mixture should be moist wet.
  • Shape the meat mixture into handball-sized meatballs and space them evenly on a baking sheet. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.
  • The meatballs will be firm but still juicy and gently yielding when they're cooked through. (Here, you can cool the meatballs and store them in the refrigerator for a couple of days or freeze them to use in the future.)
  • To Finish in the Sauce
  • Heat the tomato sauce in a sauté pan large enough to accommodate the meatballs.
  • Put the meatballs into the pan of sauce and turn the heat up ever so slightly.
  • Simmer the meatballs for 30 minutes (this isn't one of those cases where longer is better) so they can soak up some of the sauce and leave them in there until time to eat.
  • Serve the meatballs - ideally 3 to a person - in a good helping of red sauce and top each dish with grated cheese (we’d recommend Pecorino).

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