Look Out For Flying Meatballs

For chef Natale Grande of venerable, upscale Il Capriccio in Whippany, selling meatballs made from an old family recipe "was a no-brainer." In 2007, he started making 50 pounds a week. At his mother, Clara's, gourmet shop in Mendham, the meatballs "were flying off the shelves." Thus was a name born.

The family created the Flying Meatballs Company, which now produces 30,000 meatballs in sauce a week. Each 3.5-ounce meatball can be had in four varieties:

—All beef
—Beef/veal (50/50)
—All turkey

Meatballs can be purchased online and at Kings and Balducci’s supermarkets, as well as at The Flying Meatballs Market and Café in East Hanover. (The original Mendham location is closed for renovations.)

Forty-ounce packages of meatballs in sauce retail for $13.99-$14.99. Consumers can also buy Grande’s sauces, pastas, cheeses and oils.

Although Grande, 38, grew up working in the restaurant alongside his father, Antonio, who opened Il Capriccio in 1984, he took a circuitous route into the kitchen. After graduating from the University of Florida with a degree in engineering and construction management, he was working for a large-scale corporate construction company when his father told him he was ready to retire.

“I couldn’t allow him to give up his life’s work, so I took it upon myself to carry the torch,” says Grande, who worked his way up through the kitchen hierarchy and assumed the role of executive chef in 2000.

His engineering background played a key role in the development and expansion of the meatball company. When they made the leap to mass production, he developed the proprietary equipment  to increase the output of his nine-member crew, while “still maintaining the small-batch quality,” he says.

“The secret to a great meatball is great ingredients,” Grande says. “Our meat is grade A, and we grind it to our specifications. We use aged imported cheeses. We like to use a Pecorino Romano and a Grana Padano.

"They are the predominant source of where the meatballs really get their flavor, as opposed to salt and other types of fillers.”

In addition, “it’s the people and the process that make the meatballs.” He explains that most companies use technology that squeezes the meat into a paste. The equipment that he designed allows for a more delicate formation and minimal processing.

“We are able to get such a wonderfully-textured food that you would think someone’s grandmother made it,” he says.

The Flying Meatballs

110 Route 10 West
East Hanover

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