Donatella Wins People's Choice at Meatball Madness 2012

Next Iron Chef judge Donatella Arpaia took home the People's Choice award at last night's Meatball Madness, hosted by her fellow maven of Italian cooking, Giada De Laurentiis. Donatella served up classic tomato-braised veal meatballs, a recipe she attributed to her mom, who proudly helped serve them up to hungry crowds all night.

Psyched to finally beat out last year's winners from the Meatball Shop, whose booth was as popular as ever, Donatella thanked the guys from Pat LaFrieda Meats — stars of Meat Men and sponsors of the event — who were in part responsible for the tastiness of her meatballs. She said she's purchased her meat from them ever since she got into the restaurant business.

Food Network stars Anne Burrell, Geoffrey Zakarian and Alex Guarnaschelli served as official meatball tasters and helped Pat LaFrieda Jr. and Mark Pastore determine the Magnificent Meatball award. It went to Gabe Thompson of L'Apicio, who offered meatballs with spicy, porky Amatriciana sauce.

Marco Canora, chef/owner of New York's Hearth and Terroir and a past Next Iron Chef finalist, was one of few chefs to serve his balls between bread. His meatball parm sandwich had many fans — including Giada and Food Network president Brooke Johnson.

Giada offered fans her own meatball-and-prosciutto panini, then worked the room to check out the meaty offerings of more than 30 chefs and restaurants. There were traditional red-sauced meatballs, Spanish-style albondigas, Austrian-inspired pretzel-stuffed meatballs and more, made from pork, veal, beef, chicken and every possible blend. The four-time host said it was the best Meatball Madness she's seen yet.

Photos courtesy of Neil Rasmus/BFAnyc.com
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