September 2, 2014
Aug 22, 2011
12:22 PM

Meet the meatballs: Rodney Bowers’ new joint (complete with a food truck) set to open in Little Italy

A Hey Meatball! meatball (Image: Cheol Joon Baek)

A Hey Meatball! meatball (Image: Cheol Joon Baek)

It’s Monday morning in Little Italy, and we’re waiting outside Rodney Bowers’ soon-to-open restaurant, Hey Meatball!, to catch a sneak peek. The door opens, and Bowers puts his head outside. “Did you see any babes?” he jokes. It wasn’t the first thing we expected him to say, but no, we hadn’t. We were too busy dreaming of meatballs.

Once inside, Bowers tells us part of his inspiration for opening up a 30-seat restaurant on this section of College Street. “Little Italy,” he says, “is coming back with a vengeance.” It’s hard to argue with him. No longer a source of generic Italian fare and little else, the neighbourhood has seen a number of great new eateries opening up as of late: Frank’s Kitchen, Acadia and, just south of College, Woodlot, to name a few. Now, Bowers — whose previous ventures included The Rosebud and The Citizen — is adding his culinary prowess to the mix. His new restaurant is set to open next week.

Bowers has spent most of his career in fine dining; working long, stressful hours and trying to maintain the highest standard of quality for hundreds of different items. With the new venture, he’s funneling just about all of his energy into two-ounce globules of meat.

“People are starting to understand that doing one thing well is a huge key to success,” he says, referring to the proliferation of item-specific restaurants like Porchetta and Co. and WVRST. “It's a lot easier to maintain consistency.”

Anchoring the menu is, of course, a selection of meatballs: beef, pork, chicken, veggie and a seasonally-influenced rotating special (Thanksgiving, for example, could see a turkey meatball with stuffing and cranberry sauce). All of the meat will be ground in–house and sourced from hormone free, cruelty-free and additive-free suppliers like Rowe Farms. And, in an effort to stay health conscious, the meatballs won’t be fried — they’ll be braised in chicken stock (or, for the vegetarians, veggie stock).

As a nod to the various incarnations of meatballs found around the world, Hey Meatball! will offer an array of sides and sauces, like house-made pasta (Italy), mashed potatoes (Sweden), hoisin and Sriracha sauce (Asia), salad (Turkey) and more. The ordering process is simple: choose a meatball, choose a sauce and choose a side. Prices haven’t been set yet, but Bowers estimates less than $10 for a three-meatball dish. Or, go with a sandwich: a slider (one meatball), “the crusher” (two meatballs) and “the hero” (four meatballs).

Bowers is aiming to open as a lunch, dinner and late-night destination (it’ll stay open until 3 a.m. Thurs-Sat.; 11:30 p.m. Sun-Wed). Keep an eye out for other house-made specialties, too, like soda and ice cream. He’s also got a food truck and a liquor license in the works. In the future, he’d like to see other Hey Meatball! restaurants popping up around the city.

“I want it to appeal to everyone,” he says. “College students, construction workers and families.”

And, we presume, babes.

General Manager Kyle Brown (L) and Owner Rodney Bowers (R)

Hey Meatball!, 719 College Street, 416-546-1483

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