Finally slipped into the west village restabot of this acclaimed and popular franchise. I like meatballs, I thought, how bad could a restaurant be that specializes in them? Plenty bad. I ordered the spicy pork meatballs -- "no mix and match", warned the menu -- with marinara. "Great choice"!, I was assured by my server. And, at only 4 bucks a pop, I decided to have a mini feast of sides: Kale with garlic, butternut squash with ricotta salata, and risotto.
The risotto was hard nuggets of rice in a tar pit of butter and cheese, but without any discernible flavor -- just richness. The squash was equally inedible, served warm and mushy and flavorlessly. Chilled cubes of al dente squash, and maybe some salt and lemon, would have made a much better dish. Kale was without flavor, just something whipped together by a distracted line cook, like everything else.
The meatballs themselves were not at all spicy as advertised. Worse, they lack zest and character and texture, like a conceptual exercise in softness and blandness. Do they poach these things into existence? A child could really love these meatballs: crustless, tender, bland, and milky. The marinara, on the other hand, was very flavorful.
The scene is mostly young and youngish diners attracted to the casual, hip vibe, the relatively low prices, and the media fame garnered by the operation.
To call this place overrated is an understatement.
The Meatball Shop
64 Greenwich Ave, New York, NY 10011