(Sentinel photo by John Clifford
Have you met the meatball man? You know, the one on the Village Green? Chef Rossi, the owner of the meatball stand at the Saturday Farmers’ Market in town, has been a regular vendor for the past three years. His stand is part of a larger catering business that serves the greater Oneida area, while also providing signature meatballs to four nearby farmers’ markets.
Normally, Rossi sells around 11,000 meatballs a year. However, due to COVID-19, that number has significantly decreased. Since March, out of the four farmer’s markets Rossi usually attends, only the Hamilton Farmers’ Market remains open. Due to this change, Rossi has lost about $30,000 in annual sales.
“In a non-COVID-19 world, this stand sells other foods such as macaroni salad, chicken riggies and pulled pork. I’ve had to pare back on food production this year since business is slower,” Rossi said.
The stand’s items are a great representation of farm-to-table fare, using only local foods from surrounding farms. For example, the ham Rossi buys comes from a farm in Morrisville. Additionally, all the other food made at his restaurant comes from Oneida and Madison Counties.
However, Rossi loves coming to Hamilton because the community is so open and friendly. During a recent Saturday morning, the stand was packed with a mix of townspeople and students, with many patrons stopping by for a quick hello or a little chat. As lunchtime approached, the number of purchases increased and the crowd picked up. Rossi remarked that he loves seeing the students return to campus each fall, especially because the students help boost business. After a dramatic drop in sales during the summer, there has already been an uptick in his profits since Colgate’s reopening.
The popularity of Rossi’s meatballs has crossed state boundaries, drawing people from surrounding counties and as far away as New Jersey. Rossi brings about 300 meatballs to the market every week to serve individually or in his delicious meatball subs.
Sophomore Mathilda Zartman discovered the stand from an upperclassman’s mother who spoke highly of the meatballs.
“A lot of the popularity is by word of mouth. I heard it from someone else, and I try to tell others to go visit the meatball man at the market,” Zartman said.
Zartman’s support of the local farmers extends beyond the meatball stand, as she tries to go every week and support as many local vendors as she can. Make sure to get a taste of Rossi’s meatballs before the Farmers’ Market closes for the season on October 31.