Nearly every culture has a meatball floating around in its culinary history. In Chinese cuisine, Lion’s Head meatballs are king. One only has to visit IKEA to see the Swedish meatball in brown gravy, also known as köttbullar. In Spanish and Latin-American cuisine, the meatball is better known as albóndigas. But it’s the Italians who own the rights to what Americans think of as the meatball. Whether tiny meatballs in wedding soup or a fist-sized beauty in bright red tomato sauce, the Italian meatball is the ultimate in comfort food, Italian style. Here are Denver’s top spots for meatballs from all cultures.

Pasquini’s Meatball and Spaghetti (Credit, Kimberly Lord Stewart)

1310 S. Broadway
Denver, CO 80210
(303) 744-0917

Pasquini’s, a Denver favorite for pizza, makes meatballs in-house from a family recipe, hand-formed with ground chuck. You can find them on top of of a plate of spaghetti, in a calzone or in a slider or large sub. The meatball calzones are rich and hearty with ricotta, mozzarella and tomato sauce and meatball sliders are on the menu all day. One order is four mini-meatball subs with marinara sauce, mozzarella and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. During happier hour, four meatball sliders are $4.

Slotted Spoon
2730 S Colorado Blvd., No. 19
Denver, CO 80222
(303) 756-3072

Slotted Spoon is new to the Denver dining scene but Chef Jensen Cummings is from Row 14. Now his concept restaurant is all about the meatball. Choose your meatball, choose your vessel, choose your sauce and dig in. Meatballs options (three per order) include Italian with sweet fennel; sweet, sour and spicy adobo chicken; Colorado beef with nutmet, coriander and oregano; harissa lamb with triple red pepper flavors paprika, cayenne and roasted red peppers; and Swedish salmon and baja black bean. Vessels include bread, pasta, bowls and salads. Sauces can be mixed and matched, hot or cold. Hot sauces include traditional tomato, as well as creamy alfredo, honey jalapeno, chile queso and mushroom gravy. Cold sauces include chipotle ranch, tzatziki crema, sweet mustard and basil pesto. Add-on garnishes are available with options like smoked peppered bacon, caramelized vegetables and cheese.

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Meatball Sliders (Courtesy of Osterica Marco)

Osterica Marco
1453 Larimer St.
Denver, CO 80202
(303) 534-5855

Frank Bonanno’s causal yet sleek Italian eatery isn’t above serving the humble meatball. But as everything he touches, it’s with a little extra culinary flare. Osteria Marco’s lamb meatballs are served over a hot creamy bed of polenta, with a goat ricotta (capra) and a smoked tomato broth or brodo. Polenta and lamb are made for one another, and the addition of a goat ricotta with its slightly gamier flavor is a perfect addition. Osteria Marco also serves a lamb meatball panini, with a bitter arugula pesto, smoky-sweet pepper-tomato jam and a sharp goat cheese. If that isn’t enough, try the meatball sliders. Three to a plate, you get ground pork and veal, melted mozzarella, basil chiffonade and a house-made bun.

Marco’s Coal Fired Pizzeria
2129 Larimer St.
Denver, CO 80205
(303) 296-7000

Marco’s meatball sliders are made with only the best: San Marzano tomato sauce, caciocavallo cheese and Parmigiano Reggiano. East Coast transplants love these sliders for their authenticity and food memories from back east. Denverites love everything Marco’s pulls from its ovens, whether New York or Napolitano pizza. During happy hour, meatball sliders are $5.

Il Pastaio
3075B Arapahoe Ave.
Boulder, CO 80303
(303) 447-9572

This button of a restaurant is as mom-and-pop as one can get in Boulder. Giuseppe and Marta Oreamuno opened this tiny haven for homemade pasta in 2000. It’s a closely held secret among locals for its authentic food and lovely atmosphere. Of course, meatballs are on the menu. Lunch is a daily change up of Italian favorites on the buffet table, while dinner is a sit-down menu. Il Pastaio’s dishes are available for take out and for bulk orders for catering, including sauce and meatballs.

Related: Top Spots For Spaghetti In Denver

Kimberly Lord Stewart is a food author and journalist for CBS Denver local, Organic Food Reporter for, and the Food, Wine and Spirits editor for Denver Life magazine. Her book, “Eating Between the Lines” tells readers about the truth and myths of food labeling. Stewart is the recipient of two Association of Food Journalist awards for food news reporting and the Jessie Neal Business Journalism award. Her work can be found at