Something wheely magnifico is taking place at Riis Park. A viral foodie sensation is taking place right in town—Cheese Wheel Pasta.
Imagine a full parmesan cheese wheel carved out to make a bowl shape. Then the inside of the bowl is inflamed with brandy to soften the cheese. Is your mouth watering yet? Next, pasta is added to the bowl of the melting cheese wheel and turned, scraping up the sides of the parmesan bowl, completely saturating the pasta in cheesy goodness. Top it off with oil, cracked pepper and more added grated parmesan cheese, and you’re in for a treat that can only be found in one place on the peninsula—The MeatUp Grill in Riis Park.
Last weekend, Riis Park Beach Bazaar’s winter restaurant resident launched cheese wheel pasta on the peninsula. The new dish, which is not only appealing to the taste buds, but to the eyes, quickly caught attention when The MeatUp Grill posted videos of the process on social media and became a big hit for people to order at the restaurant and watch the process in front of their own eyes.
Cheese wheel pasta is just the latest sensation to come from local chef Michael Fiore. A Rockaway resident for 25 years, Fiore first took the chance on his own neighborhood after seeing how the popularity of Riis Park exploded with the Riis Park Beach Bazaar takeover. He first opened The MeatUp Grill under a pop-up tent on the boardwalk in Riis in the summer of 2017. “Living out here throughout the years. I just never felt like it was the right time to start a business here, but after Hurricane Sandy and the guys of Riis Park Beach Bazaar took over the property, I watched the development and what was taking place there and thought it was a good chance to get my foot in the door and see if I could make it without a big investment and lo and behold, it’s looking promising,” Fiore said. After two successful summers operating as one of the many food concessionaires at Riis, the owners of RPBB approached Fiore and asked if he wanted to take over Bay 9 and operate the winter restaurant. It was an opportunity Fiore couldn’t pass up. “This was another opportunity to really get the brand out to the locals and not just the summer visitors that come to the beach,” Fiore said, adding that business has been good so far.
As a summer concession, MeatUp Grill gained attention for its mouthwatering burgers, hotdogs and fries, but the winter space has provided a larger kitchen where Fiore, who also runs his own catering company, and can really work his magic and expand the menu, something he’s been taking full advantage of. Since taking over Bay 9 in October, The MeatUp Grill has been offering plenty of unique items on an ever-changing dinner and brunch menu every weekend. Each weekend, you might find items like truffle grilled cheese, crunchy chicken sandwiches, gluten-free buddha bowls, veggie burgers or another new addition, chocolate Nutella waffles with salted caramel bananas and crunch chocolate pieces. But the pasta cheese wheel is expected to be a big seller this winter. As something he’s used at parties for his catering business, Fiore was waiting for the perfect time to incorporate it into The MeatUp Grill at Riis. After the dust settled from the holiday season, now seemed like the perfect time to warm bellies in the dead of winter with cheese-covered pasta.
“When we launched it last weekend, it was a great hit. People loved it. Even the response on Instagram was big and it’s only going to get better. I’m confident it’s going to be pretty exciting. This is something that’s one of a kind here. There’s nothing in the area that people are doing to really compare it to,” Fiore said.
Last weekend’s launch featuring spaghetti with tomato and basil, served up with meatballs or sausage, was just the beginning according to Fiore. “The idea of the cheese wheel is that it changes. You can do a lot with it,” he said, adding that the cheese wheel will become a more regular part of the menu, but with different varieties. The next option will likely be a Cacio e Pepe version with garlic shrimp, and then a truffle parmesan with fettuccini in the future.
Fiore says the cheese wheel brings pasta to a whole new level. “It creates a more rich flavor. As you’re turning the pasta around in the wheel, it lightly scrapes the cheese from the wheel, creating this fresh, gooey parmesan that melts with the pasta, so it gives it this much richer flavor and a velvety texture,” he said.
If you’d like to try or see it for yourself, cheese wheel pasta will continue to be on the menu on Fridays and Saturdays at The MeatUp Grill. Note, that the grill will be closed Valentine’s weekend, from February 15 through 17, but there will be plenty of other opportunities to try cheese wheel pasta this season or one of the many other delicacies on the menu.
The MeatUp Grill is located at Bay 9 (167-02 Rockaway Beach Blvd.) in Riis Park. Parking is free for the winter season in the Riis Park parking lot. There is also a bar on premises. The restaurant is open for brunch and dinner on weekends. The hours are 5:30 p.m. – 10 p.m. on Fridays, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturdays and 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays. Delivery is also available. For more info, see TheMeatUpGrill.com
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