The Famous Firato Delicatessen Meatball Recipe

Written by Kate Falchi — June 18, 2020

I am lucky to have a mother in law who is a celebrated at home chef who comes from a long line of expert Italian cooks. If you are ever in downtown San Jose, California you might pass a giant red sign for Firato Ravioli. A now landmarked piece of San Francisco history, a forever fixture to remind us of the great Italian specialties once served there by my husband’s family.  Lucky for us, Carolyn Is willing to share some of these famous gems along with their story. 

Growing up in a family delicatessen was a unique experience. One would probably think I have a ton of recipes, but I do not. The reason is, no one ever wrote anything down because it was all done by feel and most importantly, by taste. 

A little history of the deli- My grandfather Carlo immigrated from Italy on his own to San Jose, California at the age of 16. Over time, he and a friend wanted to start their own business but realized that they needed some help. He decided to return to Italy and there married my grandmother, Solina.  Little did he realize that she would be the secret to his success! She was a magician in the kitchen—everything she cooked was out of this world. 

Growing up, I would watch her and of course sample her food. I would always question her about her recipes, and would always get the same answer —“I don’t measure… I just know! “Regrettably, I wish I would have been proactive in helping her write out her recipes!  Luckily, I have a good memory and I remember a lot of the ingredients and that special taste.

This leads me to my grandmother’s meatballs, a very popular dish in the deli. Many meatball sandwiches were made with this recipe and sold for over 50 years! It has taken some time to try to replicate her recipe but with a lot of practice I think I got it down. I know my recipe will never completely be the same as my grandmother’s, but I know my family enjoys them.


The Famous Firato Delicatessen Meatball Recipe

Don’t be afraid to sprinkle on the Parm!



For the Meatballs

1 1/2 pounds ground beef (not lean) - can also do 1/2 ground pork-1/2 ground beef
1 cup fresh Italian bread crumbs ( see below )
3-4 cloves garlic
1/4 cup fresh parsley 
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 egg beaten
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Italian breadcrumbs - use stale French bread small cubes—soak 2 cups of cubed bread in 1/2 cup milk— squeeze out the excess milk before adding to meat mixture.

1. Put ground beef in a large mixing bowl.
2. Chop parsley and garlic together—add to ground beef
3. Chop onion finely — add to ground beef
4. Mix in salt, garlic powder, onion powder, pepper, Parmesan cheese, beaten egg and breadcrumbs. Do not over mix!
5. Form meatballs — golf ball size.
6. Option 1- fry meatballs in olive oil with 2-3 cloves of garlic until brown on all sides— drop into spaghetti sauce—simmer.
Option 2- put a layer of spaghetti sauce on the bottom of a casserole dish- Place meatballs on top— pour sauce over— top with Parmesan cheese and bake in a 400 degree oven for 25- 30minutes— or until done.

Buon Appetito


Recent Posts