ROUND UP: The ground round 

Meatballs around Rochester

Tony D's meatballs al forno.


Tony D's meatballs al forno.

As much as we may not want to admit it, Rochester is pretty well known for its meats. We have the Garbage Plate (can't escape that one), white hots, BBQ joints, and pretty decent chicken wings. But the city is not typically known for its meatballs — but maybe it should be. From traditional Italian-style entries to more exotic meats and pairings, Rochester actually has a lot to offer in the meatball department.

Here is a list of some of the more noteworthy meatball dishes you'll find at local restaurants or food purveyors. Whether you want to enjoy a nice sit-down meal, grab a quick lunch, or get some late-night food-truck action, there is a meatball in Rochester for you.

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If you've been to a neighborhood event in the South Wedge, you've probably seen Mise en Place offering a deal on meatballs. And if you're like me, you've probably snagged them every time. Even when they're not on sale, these tasty meat-a-balls are just $1.50 each. They're actually not on the menu (except when served as a sandwich, on a sub roll), but you can still order them a la carte. These house-made meatballs are light and tender, a mix of beef and pork. They're served with marinara and lots of shredded parmesan, and would pair quite well with pasta. I got a side of the mac & cheese and swapped bites. This is comfort food at its best. (683 South Ave., 325-4160,

click to enlarge Skylark Lounge meatball "sliders" on ciabatta rolls. - PHOTO BY MARK CHAMBERLIN
  • Skylark Lounge meatball "sliders" on ciabatta rolls.

At Skylark Lounge, the menu has step-by-step instructions for an optimal meatball experience: 1. Choose a style: 3 balls + 1 side ($7.50), 3 balls on a 6" roll ($6), or 1 ball on a mini ciabatta ($2). 2. Choose your meatball: traditional, pork BBQ, spicy chicken, veggie, or the special. 3. Choose your sauce: marinara, parmesan cream, buffalo, roasted red pepper, or pesto. 4. Not actually a step, but pick a side. And pick the fried mashed potato balls. Skylark's meatballs are juicy and flavorful, my favorite being the traditional with parmesan cream sauce. The bread is soft, chewy, and lightly toasted. With the variety Skylark offers, there are lots of possible flavor combinations, which always gives me a reason to return. It's also a perfect (light) meal for two (my friend and I both got a slider and split a side) for $7 and change. (40 S. Union St., 270-8106,

For an intimate Italian dining experience, make a reservation at Rocco. The restaurant fills its 13 tables and small bar nearly every night, and deservedly so. I managed to snag a seat at the bar, arriving right when the place opened. I ordered the bruschetta con polpette ($8) and just minutes later was greeted by three medium-sized meatballs atop a slice of grilled bread from Baker Street Bakery. The meatballs are a mix of veal, beef, and pork. They are incredibly tender and moist, and pack a little bit of heat when it comes to the flavors. The charred bread underneath soaks up the red sauce and vies with the meatballs to be the star of the dish. I was happy to be the judge in that competition. (165 Monroe Ave., 454-3510,

Get ready to chow down, because the meatballs at Tony D's Coal Fired Pizza are large and in charge. While meatballs al forno ($11) are listed as an appetizer, they're probably the most filling dish on the entire menu. One order gets you two meatballs (trust me, that's all you need) topped with ricotta and chunky tomato sauce, then baked in the restaurant's coal-fired pizza oven. Seasoned to perfection in a very Italian fashion, these meatballs could easily be described as "joygantic" for their size (nearly 3" in diameter) and flavor combo. (288 Exchange Blvd., 340-6200,

Cure has been occupying a spot at the Public Market for nearly two years now. Specializing in "French farm" cuisine, the menu features exotic, house-cured meats, so I wasn't surprised to find a meatball dish on the menu. I was especially eager to try something besides the traditional beef and pork offerings. The wild boar meatballs ($16) come four per plate and are meant for sharing (all of the dishes at Cure are served family style). Served with white beans, caramelized onions, bacon, and brioche croutons, the dish was slightly sweet, with lots of garlic, and on the fatty side. It was especially pleasant and refreshing to taste a meatball paired with something other than a red sauce. (50 Public Market, 563-7941,

click to enlarge The Meatball Truck Co. meatballs in a cup with bread. - PHOTO BY MATT DETURCK
  • The Meatball Truck Co. meatballs in a cup with bread.

We can't wrap up a meatball round-up without mentioning Rochester's only food truck dedicated solely to this meaty dish, The Meatball Truck Co. While the truck is currently closed for the winter (scheduled to reopen in early spring), it offers two regular choices: meatballs in a cup with bread ($6) and a meatball sub ($8). The first features two fresh house-ground angus beef meatballs topped with marinara, ricotta, and basil, served with Flour City Bread. Or you could go for Option 2, which gets you one more ball and a Flour City Bread roll. The truck also offers specials like a meatball burger, mashed-potato balls, and mac & cheese balls. Get your spork ready. (Various locations, 770-0204,

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