In a neighborhood full of food shops with pedigreed ingredients and high prices ($25 plain pizza or $18 cheeseburger anyone?), one place—Joe's Superette—stands out as the weirdest. It's a grocery with, like, nothing for sale. Don't expect "vegetables" and "fruits," just because the sign says so. Inside, there's a letter board menu with a list of deli meat sandwiches (they do, in fact, have these), but entirely absent from all signage is its most popular item: rice balls.
You have to know.
They're crisp on the outside and creamy in the middle. The prosciutto variety is especially rich and satisfying. Have a picnic on a cold winter's day! These rice balls work wonders when it comes to staying warm.
A few years ago, my Sicilian friend, Nick Nicolosi, tried some rice balls from a pizzeria in the neighborhood. He thought they were horrible. Granted, he's not easily impressed—especially when it comes to native Sicilian foods. According to Nick, my favorite granita in Rome is horrible, and only in Sicily do they make granita or rice balls the right way.
So when he was here recently I brought him to a few food spots—just to see if he would approve of anything.
And so here's Chapter One: Nick the Sicilian, on the topic of rice balls. (Click above photo for video, or go here for a larger size copy on Vimeo.)
Map Joe's Superette (call ahead for days/hours).
[N.B. 5/18/11: I've learned that Joe's Superette has closed for good. The Lost New York blog has posted a story about its rice ball enlaced history and ultimate closing.]
[N.B. 2 5/21/11: Flowers and written notes outside of Joe's Superette. The owner, Leo Coldanato, passed away. Many afficionados — myself included — will miss Leo and those little, fantastic rice balls he made famous. Story from Brooklyn Paper.]
Posted a follow-up to this story on May 9, 2011.