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The Short Version: The Meatball Shop is a restaurant where warm memories are made fresh daily. The kitchen uses high-quality ingredients and spices in its Italian cuisine, and its affordable menu has enough treats to satisfy anyone looking for a filling, delicious, and saucy meal in New York City. It’s common to see couples stop by The Meatball Shop for a casual date in a friendly atmosphere. The neighborhood hangout serves mouth-watering comfort foods in generous portions that are perfect for sharing with a loved one.
Daniel Holzman and Michael Chernow have been best friends since childhood, and they are enthusiastic business partners in a foodie venture. Their dream of starting a restaurant together started while they were working as delivery boys on the Upper East Side of New York City.
The pair turned their talk into action when they opened The Meatball Shop in 2010.
The Meatball Shop is a love letter to a classic Italian dish. The meatball is decadent, hearty, and affordable, so it became the perfect vehicle for the restaurant.
“The goal was to create a fun place to hang out. A place that wasn’t pricey or out of touch,” said The Meatball Shop CEO Adam Rosenbaum. “The environment is good for dates because it can be quick if you want it to be quick, or you can sit for a while and no one will bother you.”
The Meatball Shop quickly became an iconic spot for first dates, family dinners, and other social gatherings. The restaurant’s five locations have hosted countless couples on their first date or anniversary dinner. Some regulars have even hired the catering services to get their favorite meatballs served at their wedding reception or rehearsal dinner.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, The Meatball Shop has faced unprecedented challenges, but it has weathered these difficult times thanks to the support from the community. Adam said he has been gratified to see such loyalty from locals, and he has worked hard to keep the meatball spirit going strong behind the scenes as well.
“We go into every decision we make with the team in mind,” Adam said. “We are like a family. We look out for each other. There’s a strong bond in the team, past and present, and so many people just love working here.”
The Meatball Shop takes pride in having a little something for everyone. The menu includes plenty of vegan and gluten-free options, and it also has spaghetti and meatballs for children. The B’alls and Sauce options allow diners to get their choice of meat smothered in their favorite sauce, and meatball lovers can even order a Bucket for Later, which includes 20 frozen meatballs and a jar of sauce.
Adam compared the dining experience at The Meatball Shop to a choose-your-own-adventure story because individuals can mix and match different meatballs, pastas, sauces, and sides to satisfy their appetites.
Many people end up splitting a Sm’all Bites appetizer or veggie sides. The menu lends itself well to dates, double dates, and families with young children. Adam recommends meatball lovers try the Mini Buffalo Balls, which has all the flavors of buffalo wings but with much less mess and work.
Diners should also make sure to save room for dessert because The Meatball Shop is famous for making decadent ice cream sandwiches. Couples can choose their favorite ice cream flavors and cookies and then ask to “make it a double decker” to add a second layer or “get a blast from the past” to top it with the sugary cereal of the day.
The Meatball Shop has seen countless dates and marriage proposals over the years. One couple went on their first date at The Meatball Shop and fell in love with the rich cuisine and homey atmosphere. Five years later, the couple were married and working together as a chef and frontend manager at the restaurant.
“The team makes you feel at home and super comfortable,” Adam said. “We get emails all the time from people who had their first date here.”
The Meatball Shop inspires a community feel where people can find a sense of belonging. It’s the type of place where families stop by to share a bite and couples return to celebrate dating anniversaries.
Over 2,500 people have left Yelp reviews on the Meatball Shop, and they have been overwhelmingly positive about the food, staff, and atmosphere.
“I’ve been coming here since they first opened, and it never disappoints,” said Alexis S. “The food is always good. The ice cream sandwiches for dessert are delicious.”
“Great food and cocktails, awesome menu options, and amazing service! Also open late, what more could you ask for in a place?” Tiffany A. said in a Yelp review. “Even if you’re not a fan of meatballs, there’s something for you.”
In years past, The Meatball Shop has seen its cozy dining areas packed with hungry guests. The lively chatter and steaming hot plates of food gave the place a friendly neighborhood feel. As if you were joining a big family for dinner.
Of course, all that changed during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Meatball Shop had to stop business as usual and adapt to lockdown ordinances by implementing an online ordering and delivery service.
The delivery options included all the usual food favorites as well as to-go cocktails and family-sized meal kits called Baller Boxes. Couples can order a Baller Box to treat themselves to a multicourse meal at home. The kits included the guest’s choice of meatballs, sauces, sides, cookies, and bottles of wine.
The Meatball Shop fueled date nights at home when New York City was in the throes of the pandemic, and now the neighborhood restaurant is slowly but surely returning to its classic in-person dining experience.
In February 2021, New York City took a major step toward recovery by allowing restaurants to let people come inside and eat together. The Meatball Shop is currently open for indoor dining at 50% capacity.
“We’re just happy to be back,” Adam said. “We’re always trying to innovate to keep people happy. Right now we’re working on a spring menu with a couple of seasonal dishes and new cocktails.”
As the weather gets warmer and COVID-19 vaccinations ramp up, the New York City restaurant scene is beginning to get back into its groove. Dating and married couples throughout the city are coming out of their lockdown bubbles and looking for a place where they can hang out with loved ones — and perhaps share a delicious plate of meatballs.
If you’re looking for the secret ingredients to The Meatball Shop’s success, you have to look beyond the kitchen. The restaurant has built its brand by spreading good vibes and celebrating milestones within the community. It started with two lifelong friends, and it has grown into a beloved food sensation in New York City.
The Meatball Shop is a wonderful date spot because of its casual and lively atmosphere. Couples can spend a quick date sharing an appetizer and cocktails, or they can linger for hours and savor a meal packed with flavor and nostalgia. The restaurant doesn’t put on airs or charge exorbitant prices, so it’s a great place for people to relax and be real with each other.
Looking ahead to the summer, The Meatball Shop’s team is excited to get back to the business of serving savory dishes and sharing smiles with people from all walks of life.
“It’s an approachable place with a cool vibe. Not pretentious,” Adam said. “Our guests keep coming back again and again, and it’s led to a lot of good stories.”
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