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Let's talk about great meatball parms

I grew up in central NJ (Lakewood) and although I haven't been there in a very long time (I have lived in Los Angeles for fifteen years) and my palate has evolved since I was a kid, I do have many fond memories of the delicious Italian American food of my youth. Los Angeles has some wonderful food, but truly great NJ style Italian-American staples are hard to find here.

I may be heading back for a family event, and it made me wonder. Does a truly great meatball parm exist in central New Jersey, or are the sandwiches of my youth just a happy memory? Honestly I can't remember where we used to go for great ones, but I do remember places with Italian sounding A-names (Attilios, Antonios, etc.)

I remember great meatball parms were always broiled to melt and brown the cheese over the meatballs and crisp the bread. I always disliked mealy meatballs-- and if an error was to be made, I preferred the springier, chewier ones to the ones that fell apart into mush. Meatballs needed to be well spiced. Oregano was always a plus.

How do you define a great meatball parm?

And I've always wondered about this-- isn't it usually mozzarella on a meatball parm? What about provelone? I always thought it was a bit odd that the sandwich was defined by a cheese that takes second fiddle to the gooey melted stuff that showcases the sandwich.

For purposes of opening up the conversation, I'm open to great meatball parms all over New Jersey.

Thanks for your advice.

Mr Taster

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  1. I grew up in Briarwood Queens and as you, have wonderful memories of many different foods least of which was a meatball parm hero from Alba pizzeria. They would cut the SOLID meatballs in half, put them in a metal baking dish and put them in the oven after covering them in sauce and cheese...lots of cheese. When the m.b's were just about ready they would put the hollowed out roll into the oven and let it toast. Out they both came and the meatballs, cheese and sauce were spooned into the roll. Heaven. Now that I've digressed, I'm sure you can find a good m.b. parm sub in N.J.

    1. Lived in New Jersey all my life, and LOVE meatball parm sandwiches. When you do find a great one, please let me know where it is! I have actually had meatballs so horrible that I faked liking them to ask what ingredients they used, (so that I wouldn't repeat the offense) and have been told, "I don't know, they get them frozen in a bag at costco."

      1 Reply
      1. re: drubenero

        I'm not one to eat meatballs out of my home but the one's they have at Frank Anthony's are great. Meatballs are a personal thing so hard to say what people would and wouldn't like but I can vouch for these..and they do make a parm.

        http://frankanthonys.com/Menu.html

      2. OceanView deli in long branch. This old Italian couple has been there for decades and they know how to make a killer parm sub!

        8 Replies
        1. re: corvette johnny

          corvette johnny - I'm really glad you posted this, as I remember reading a readers poll in a local paper that had Ocean View as a winner in a sandwich category. I remember vowing to try the place, but have yet to do so. A google search however, returns with the name Ocean View Bakery. Is this the same, or am I looking in the wrong place? If it is indeed the same place, there is quite an Italian influence in that are, as it is about a block from Tony's, Tuzzio's, and Nunzio's. Thanks in advance!

          1. re: drubenero

            Yes, it is ocean view bakery and a block from Tonys and Nunzios.

            Joanne is her name and she is a sweet lady. I love her veal & peppers too!

            I would recommend trying her subs. I think you will be impressed!

            1. re: corvette johnny

              Johnny, I may have to stop in one of these days. We do a Nunzio's pie every so often so the 'hood is known - my wife will often order one of these or a sausage parm from Gianni's which isn't bad. I'll get back to you should I order some stuff from them. Thanks

              1. re: JustJake

                JustJake: If you like cheesesteaks, try the cheese steak pizza at Rockafellars (about 1 block from Ocean View.....good stuff and filling. One large pie weighs several pounds LOL

                Ironically, I really don't like their regular cheesesteak subs much...nothing compared to the real deal philly steaks. However, pizza they can pull off.

              2. re: corvette johnny

                Just so I'm clear, this place is a bakery, run by an old couple, that makes killer sandwiches? If so, I'm heading up soon.

                1. re: MGZ

                  That is correct. I don't think they bake bread any longer though.

                  They are probably in there 80s to be honest. They have been there for EVER. Check out the cash register they use. It is hilarious!

                  Joanne and Giro are the owners. Joanne gets so busy she starts to talk to me in italian. I just nod my head and pretend to understand LOL

                  She makes a good fried chicken cutlet with fresh Moz and roasted red peppers (and balsamic)

                  Ask what the special is. They have hot dishes in the back like sausage and pepps, veal and pepps, etc. If you go at peak lunch hours it will be slow. They get packed.

                  She also makes me antipastos with proscuitto, sopressata, aged provolone, fresh mozz and roasted peppers....custom made and about 3000 calories : )

                  1. re: MGZ

                    Ps, this is a "hole in the wall" place. It's a deli and not an actual restaurant. They do have a few small tables though.

                    1. re: corvette johnny

                      Thanks for the heads up. I gotta get there.

            2. The problem with this type of hero is not the meatballs, nor the cheese, nor the sauce. It's the BREAD. Most pizza places use the cheapest, most horrific bread for these heros, hoping people don't notice. (I guess they don't!)

              I want a great bread for my hero sandwiches, and it's just not to be found.

              2 Replies
              1. re: lemarais

                Not a problem. Nobody in this part of the world actually orders or eats a sandwich called a "Hero." If they did, hopefully they should be seriously disappointed. :-\

                1. re: equal_Mark

                  I don't understand... If it's called a "hoagie" or a "sub" or a "grinder" the bread is better??? And BTW, half of the State of NJ calles them "heros".

              2. I like the turkey meatball wraps at Muscle Maker Grill. I would never know they were turkey.

                5 Replies
                1. re: ebchower

                  I know this is a meatball parm string, but eggplant parm is a 1st cousin. You'd be hard pressed to find a better made one than at Ms. DiMaggio's pizza joint (DeLio's) on Broadway in South Amboy.

                  A friend recommended them to me a few years ago, and if I'm traveling anywhere near the place on the way back to the office, I call her to see if she has made a batch - and then will audible and veer into town for it. It's terrific.

                  As for the meatball parm, I don't' often order, opting to make em' at home as my wife makes a pot full of em on some Sunday's (and she's not Italian). - Leftovers from an Italian dinner on Monday has us making Meatball Parm, and it's an awesome meatball. Get some club rolls from Nino's in Oakhurst and it's as good as it gets. Bon Apetit

                  1. re: JustJake

                    JustJake, Have you tried anything else from Delio's? I'd love to here more about it, even though great Eggplant Parm is worth the ride to just about anywhere.

                    1. re: drubenero

                      Their meatball parm :-) is good (they don't skimp on quality as they're principled 'old school' that you do things but one way - the right way, the way momma used to......., but as stated, I go there for the eggplant parm. Slices aren't bad - cheezy and not too much grease.

                      On the Eggplant parm sandwich - it's not always available so call in advance 732-721-7440 to see if she has some made up.

                      1. re: JustJake

                        Thank you JustJake. I'm a big fan of the pizza at Sciortino's, and can't bring myself to go to SA for pizza anywhere else, but on your recommendation I'll try it at Dileo's as well. Uh Oh - I hope I didn't just inadvertently turn this into another pizza thread...

                    2. re: JustJake

                      Thanks for the tip. I take the train from South Amboy & am always looking for a good eggplant parm, so I'll give it a try one night.