In terms of the food blogosphere I'm usually pretty late to get 'on trend'; same applies in most walks of life really. Though in comparison to the rest of the population, including my super clued in workmates, I can still be ahead of the game when I need to be. The latest example is with trend foodstuff meatballs. Apparently they are the dish of 2011, obviously I didn't find out til October, but when I heard tale of Luca's Meatballs hitting Dalston, I was bounding around the office and taking orders for a Thursday cycle order up to Ridley Road.
Ridley Road market seems ungentrifiable. A fantastic thing, in a part of Hackney where new concept stores are popping up almost weekly. It's a full on, stinky, bustling hub of West African diaspora - all dried fish, chilli peppers, broiler hens and music. You can get the cheapest super fresh veg you can imagine - three butternut squash for a pound anyone? Anyway, that a much-hyped meatball shack was opening up had people talking: was this the start of the Broadway Marketisation of Ridley Road? Surely not!
I roll up at Luca's expecting to see a queue of hipsters, DSLRs at the ready. Actually nobody was there, just Luca getting things ready. I started reeling off my order and asked if I worked nearby. I explained that I'd cycled up from Old Street (only two miles) and was very excited. I was rewarded with a tiramisu on the house. Nice one! Luca was incredibly charming and excited about his business, and later tweeted a photo of me with my haul.
The menu is simple - there are (beef) meatballs and spinach and ricotta balls. You can have them on a ciabatta (with tomato sauce, provolone cheese, lambs lettuce) or atop tasty polenta with a range of sauces: roast tomato, spicy tomato, mushroom/cream, gorgonzola. The base price is £3.50, but for an extra 50p you can have an extra ball or a small portion of veg - when I went it was braised baby beetroot.
As we tucked in back at the office, it was thumbs up all around. I'd opted for the ciabatta and it was just wow. The meatballs were splendid, perfectly formed, simply and subtly spiced with just a hint of fennel. The tomato sauce, again, simple and pure, combined perfectly with the smoky provolone. I was just about in heaven. My colleagues had the polenta boxes: one, a veggie, had 4 of the spinach and ricotta balls, the other went half and half. Both were blown away with theirs, particularly appreciating how well done the polenta was. I had a sample of the veggie balls and was surprised at their pungency. Will definitely be going half/half next time.
Luca's offer is expanding - it's positioned outside the newly licensed Wu's Market Bar, which is all tropical and bright inside. Luca will be serving up meatballs late into the night as well as anti-pasti platters and more. I'll be back.