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Who Has the Best Meatballs in Philadelphia?

30 people are going for the title this Sunday, and you can taste the entries for free.

Image via iStock

Pretty much every Sunday when I was growing up in Norristown, my Italian grandmother would make a big pot of meatballs and gravy. Once we moved away to South Jersey, our meatball-eating decreased to once monthly, but no holiday was ever complete without a deep bowl of meatballs, right next to the turkey or ham. These days, my kids love making meatballs with me, whether for a quick weeknight dinner or a long-simmered Sunday gravy.

Point is, I love meatballs. And so I didn’t hesitate to say yes when South Philly restaurateur Michael Strauss asked me if I would help him find the best meatballs in Philadelphia at his 4th Annual Meatball and Gravy Contest at Taproom on 19th.

There are 30 competitors signed up.

Most have no professional training, but what they do have is the undying belief that they make the best meatballs in Philadelphia. Then there’s Jena Taylor, wife of Vetri alum and current Brigantessa chef de cuisine Adam Taylor. There’s a woman whom Strauss describes as a “professional competitor” who makes the food contest rounds. And let’s not forget illegal-South-Philly-tamales queen Jennifer “Fear” Zavala.

“I think I’ve proven over the years how great my balls are,” Zavala (pictured) tells Foobooz. “Not only are they good, but my gravy will make you like me more than you like your Nana down the street.”

Sounds like Zavala is talking a lot of smack. I mean, I’m sure her meatballs are great, but are they the best meatballs in Philadelphia? There’s a lot of competition here.

“I don’t bother with these other balls, and I don’t let these dudes’ balls bother me,” says Zavala. “And I’m making chick pea meatballs, because only basic bitches use meat.”

And for those of you who wouldn’t trust me to judge a food event if I was the last “writer” left on earth, have no fear. The judging panel also includes Billy Penn’s Danya Henninger, meatball-judging veteran Marcos Espinoza from Side Project Jerky, one person actually born in Italy, and a former Best Meatball finalist, among others meatball enthusiasts.

Things kick off at 5 p.m. on Sunday. It’s free to attend and free to get some tastes.

Follow @VictorFiorillo on Twitter