A few months ago, I came across a blog post that told the story of one couple opening their homes every Friday night to host a casual meatball dinner. Friends, coworkers, neighbors, travelers passing through… everyone was invited, and the result was incredible. The couple got to know more people more deeply, and the guests got to meet and make connections with others, as well.
I went to Rob one night and suggested we do a version of this in our own home. After all, both of us much prefer smaller-scale social settings. We both wanted to deepen relationships with people we’ve met here in Charlottesville, as well as get to know others not already in our social circle.
We decided to keep the idea of it being a meatball night because we have a special meatball recipe that comes with a fun story in our lives: a couple years ago, a new-ish restaurant, The Meatball Shop, was making headlines in NYC and I wanted to try it. The concept sounded awesome: you mix and match different types of meatballs with different types of sauces and different types of dishes (on top of pasta, on a sandwich, with a side roll, etc.). But Rob insisted to me that he didn’t like meatballs. I asked that he just try it with me once, and he was sweet enough to agree to it (I might have swayed him by mentioning the infamous whiskey float on their menu). Turned out, Rob loves meatballs :). We went back to the restaurant many times before we moved from New York, and then I found The Meatball Shop’s classic meatball recipe on Good Morning America’s website after they did an appearance on the show. We started making our own meatballs in Charlottesville using that recipe so that we could have a taste of our favorite New York meatballs in our new home. That recipe is documented on the blog here.
To start off this tradition, we initially sent out emails, texts, and Facebook posts to invite people. I wanted to emphasize that it would be a casual dinner, that you’ll probably be eating with your plate on your lap, that guests are free to bring wine/dessert/salad but that it wasn’t at all necessary, that kids, friends of friends, etc. were welcome. We linked to a Google Doc RSVP sheet so that Rob and I could prepare for the number of guests attending.
An institution, as friends now call it, had begun. We host every Friday night that we’re in town, and we love getting to meet new people as well as chat with good friends. Rob and I reflect every Friday night after everyone has left about how special it is to welcome these guests into our home and be able to have truly wonderful conversations. Sometimes I stress out about fitting everyone in our small apartment, about there not being enough space for everyone to eat at the table, about running out of this or that… but when I catch myself in the midst of the night looking around at everyone truly engaged with others, laughing, smiling… I know that those little details don’t matter.
Friday Night Meatballs has been the best decision Rob and I have made to practice hospitality and develop relationships in our community. It works for us, two people who both crave easy-going, intimate social settings. Friday nights have become highlights of our week.