What does “meat” even mean anyway? Must protein come from animals, or can it be engineered from plants in a lab? Sardinia-born brothers Mauro and Sergio Corbia, who cofounded Mauro’s Cafe at Fred Segal on Melrose and co-own Fabiolus Cucina in Hollywood, partnered with their Italian “brother from another mother” Mark Mittleman to answer questions like that. At Brothers Meatballs, they serve the “ultimate comfort food” near the Cinerama Dome, minus meat.
“We think meat is a relative term,” Mittleman says. “Meat is an unnecessary source of protein now that there are some great plant-based choices on the market. Vegans and vegetarians are obvious guests for us, but we really want omnivores and flexitarians to try us too. Making this choice, even one day a week is good for your health, the health of the planet, and of course is great for the animals.”
“Mama’s Taste, Plant Based” is the restaurant’s motto and taps into collective nostalgia. “Meatballs bring back a lot of memories,” Mittleman says. “Running home after school to see if Mama made her famous meatballs and just quality time with family in general. We wanted to share that feeling with our guests.”
Growing up, Mauro and Sergio’s mother and Grandma used beef and veal in their meatballs. Mittleman’s Mom and Grandma used veal, pork, and beef. “I make it that way too,” Mittleman says. “Now I make it with plants too!”
A mutual friend invited Mittleman to join the Corbia brothers at Fabiolus Cucina, which they purchased in 2016. “Our friend may have had ESP because we all hit off immediately,” Mittleman says. “We talked over dinner about a concept that Mauro and Sergio had been working on for years based on their family and love for their mama’s cooking.”
Last month, they opened Brothers Meatballs next to Fabiolus Cucina in the space that was formerly home to Bowery, which shuttered during the pandemic. To put their imprint on the space, they installed a black cushioned banquette, hung family photos in orange frames, and lined blue shelves behind the bar with canned and jarred sauces and olive oils.
Of course choosing the right meat was vital for a meatball concept. “Flavor and texture were huge parts of our decision-making process,” Mittleman says. “After all the testing and tasting we found Impossible was the best. They buy cheese from Follow Your Heart and Violife, which both blend corn and potato starches with coconut oil and olive extract to mimic dairy’s effects.
Meatballs are available on plates or in sandwiches on soft, house-baked ciabatta. Rosso is a classic tomato sauce with basil. Verde is a vivid green arugula pesto green tomato sauce. Bianco Truffle is the most indulgent option, blanketing meatballs in truffle Alfredo. They also run specials like Pink Parm, dressing meatballs with creamy pink vodka sauce, sautéed mushrooms, and bell peppers. Mozzarella and Parmesan “cheese” play important supporting roles.
Panna cotta, the sweet, silky Italian dessert, is one of Sergio Corbia’s signature items. To replicate the creamy texture, the trio experimented with nut milks and thickening agents, but ultimately opted for Flora plant-based cream, which is made with ingredients like fava bean proteins, oils, gums, and sunflower lecithin. “The texture and viscosity were exactly what we were looking for,” Mittleman says. Brothers Meatballs serves chocolate and limoncello raspberry versions.
“We set out to make delicious food, first and foremost,” Mittleman says. “It just happens to be plant-based.”
Brothers Meatballs; 6268 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, 323-672-8011.