Like many Philadelphians, Michael Antinore grew up eating meatballs at his grandma’s house, and he considers them a quintessential Philly food. As the food truck movement here started to take off in the past couple of years, he continually wondered why no one was doing a meatball-focused truck. So he got into the kitchen and began to cook. The result launched last week:Mama’s Meatballs is a new staple on the Philly food truck circuit, with regular stops scheduled in Love Park, at City Hall and at The Oval on the Ben Franklin Parkway.
Antinore took the time to refine his recipes before launch, and his turkey balls actually won the amateur prize at last fall’s Swedish Historical Museum Meatball Contest. A hairdresser by trade – he owns the East End Salon in Old City – he is excited about getting into the food game. “I dream about meatballs now,” he tells us, “I fall asleep thinking, ‘What can I come up with next?’”
Mama’s Meatballs are made with a unique technique – instead of just meat and spices, Antinore incorporates other things you might find on a sandwich in the ball itself. For example, his turkey ball has sauteed broccoli rabe ground into the meat, and is then stuffed with Asiago cheese before baking. His sausage balls have diced long hots and crushed red peppers in the mix, and are stuffed with horseradish cheese. In the future he’ll offer a “Bacon Blue Ball,” bacon chopped into burger meat with Worcestershire sauce and then stuffed with blue cheese.
Antinore is especially proud of his veggie ball – “Most veggie balls I’ve tried have sucked,” he says emphatically. Mama’s is made of red and black beans and chick peas, then dipped in egg and rolled in panko crumbs before cooking. We spoke to one customer who liked the veggie the best of all the balls she tried – even though she’s usually an avid meat eater – especially when paired with the spicy guacamole that comes with it.
The next outing for the truck will be 11 AM-3 PM this Thursday, July 18, at City Hall. When you go, try things out with a single meatball slider, currently served on a Beiler’s Bakery potato roll ($3.50). Or go for the lunch combo: three balls of your choice (you are welcome to mix-and-match) served on a hoagie roll with chips and a bottle of water for $10 total. “You can’t beat Mama’s meats,” is the truck’s slogan, and Antinore is pouring his heart into his new business to make sure it stays true.