Interview Of The Week : Johnny Meatballs

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With social media, a friend is always one click away. I know people who I have yet to meet face to face that I already like more than most people I have known personally for many years. You meet some characters on the internet but you can always pick out the real, stand-up people. Through friends of friends, I came to know Johnny Meatballs. I liked him right away and related to him immediately on a personal level, realizing we viewed Life similarly.

Here is someone who openly admits what he is and is proud of it. How can you not love that and embrace people like Johnny? The Meatball King is a proud New Jersey-Italian-American-“cugine”-“goomba”. And he’s got the hair to prove it.

In a world dominated by reality tv and the internet, Johnny Meatbals made a name for himself as a straightforward guy you just have to like. He, along with his wife Megin, were stars of VH1’s “My Big Friggin’ Wedding”. The show followed them as they searched for an all-out, over the top, Jersey-style, Italian-American wedding. He has a cookbook out titled, “My Big Friggin’ Book”. There’s also a documentary being made about him, coming out around Spring 2014. Johnny Meatballs is all over and is taking over. When you hear him talk, it will shock you to know that people still have thick accents like the one he is so proud of using.

He’s dedicated to being himself. He is also dedicated to taking his meatballs from his food truck to every shelf in every high-end supermarket in America, so others can eat they way he grew up eating. Johnny DeCarlo has vision and the drive to make his dreams come true. Piazza Life was thrilled to interview the Meatball King.

1) What’s the secret ingredient in Johnny’s Meatballs? I realize by telling us, it would no longer remain a secret.

Well, I have a few things I do…first I include sweet caramelized onions as opposed to using them raw as some may. (By doing this I don’t include onions in the sauce/gravy making process.) I cook them down in a pan and get them soft and golden followed by a quick chill before I stir them into the mix. Then I add my proprietary “Special 10-Spice Blend,” a savory mix of salt, pepper, oregano, parsley, garlic powder and five other carefully selected herbs and seasonings. The sweet onions and the savory spices provide a perfect blend of flavor which makes my meatballs unique.

2) You are a VERY optimistic person and your interactions with fans are important. How do you manage to be inspirational and always look on the bright side?

Look, I’m a human being like everyone, I have my highs and lows, but when I am serving the public, I don’t let them see me sweat. Not because I am trying to put on a fake front, but in any field of service, who wants to visit a business and have someone in a bad mood? I wouldn’t as a customer. I owe it to people to have a good attitude. Although I may give the impression that all is well most of the time, I definitely don’t always have smooth waters with my ventures. In fact, more often than not, the tides are choppy. The challenges are actually what keep me so optimistic as those all teach me something new. Although that may seem crazy to some who probably would have packed it in a long time ago considering some of the challenges I’ve faced but I live by the credo that if you don’t laugh you’ll cry. I also love the Joe DiMaggio quote when he was once asked by a reporter why he always hustles whatever the score of the game is and he said: “There’s always some kid who may be seeing me for the first or last time. I owe him my best.”

3) People who follow you know that your family comes first. How did you meet your wife? How is it being a father with the hectic schedule you have?

I met my wife Megin in corporate America in 2008 which was my last “real” job in the sales department of Dale & Thomas Popcorn. It seems like another lifetime ago…I was actually unhappily married at the time and Megin was unhappily engaged. We became friends at work and connected through our conversations which revolved around our two similar situations. We both felt we were stuck in “parking spaces” as she was engaged for several years with no progress and I was in a 10 year relationship where I was growing apart with my ex-wife so our talks were kind of like therapy sessions where we were attempting to fix our common relationship issues. Eventually though we both ended up leaving those parking spaces and Megin and I began to spend more time together especially after they closed the department at our job and we were out of work. Things eventually developed into a relationship when we realized that we were actually the two people that we were trying to change our significant others into, if that makes sense? That just naturally grew into a real bond and then our wedding and kids…and a business partnership…all of which of course was captured on a VH1 reality show. So there were certainly A LOT of changes over the course of those first couple of years together. The way I see it, if we could survive all that crazy stuff we could get through anything going forward now.

4) Rocky is a re-occuring theme in anything Johnny Meatballs does. Explain

Well besides of course the whole Italian-American connections of the series, I mainly relate to the underdog aspect. Seemed that theme was present at least once…whatever film of the six you will find that…even when Rocky was on top there were side issues he had to contend with. That’s kind of how my life is, even if I accomplish something big, I know I gotta stay one step ahead because there’s always something that could go wrong and throw a wrench into your plan. I roll with the punches and keep on fighting…double puns there but true.

5) Last meal?

You probably think I am going to say meatballs but I’m not. My “to-the-electric chair” meal would be a giant antipasto platter with slices of soppresatta, prosciutto, mortadella, chunks of sharp provolone, fresh creamy mozzarella, Jersey tomatoes, roasted peppers……nothing hot or cooked. I just want a giant, cold sampler of all these things piled up high. Some nice crusty bread……of course, and a glass of vino; I’m sure you can hook me up with that.

6) Do you believe in an After Life?

I do, but as an adult, I don’t know exactly if it’s how you picture it as a kid or how you were taught by your faith where it’s often a very simplistic Heaven or Hell / Paradise or burning in fire ideal. I definitely think the people that do good things while alive will eventually reach a spiritual place of total contentment and those who’ve hurt others will face consequences. But I’m not here to judge anyone’s choices or try to decipher sinners and saints or who will end up where. I just try to live in a Christian manner and take inspiration from others and keep that positive outlook whether it’s with my family or strangers. My biggest hope when it’s all over is that I added something to the world that will inspire someone else after I’m gone. You know, as opposed to someone saying “Wow, that person was a jerk!” or… “Oh, he wasted his talent.”

7) Would you give up your New Jersey Accent for either a Texan one or a Boston one. You HAVE to pick one!

I visited Boston many times, I adore that city but I despise the New England accent like nails on a chalkboard. Now my wife took a business trip to Texas once and she told me she loved it there with the country music and the cowboys (and yes she is a Dallas Cowboys fan) and all the rest. So I would become a cowboy for her. Hey, Dean Martin pulled it off.

8) If you weren’t making meatballs, what else would you love to do?

Anything involving TV. Dream gig would be actually to act in an old school sitcom style show. I grew up watching all those corny ‘80s shows like “Who’s the Boss” in particular, which had all the elements: cheesy yet comforting opening theme music, the laugh tracks, and of course the standard constant: the wrap-up where everything, no matter how tragic, got resolved in 30 minutes. But they stand the test of time and are just wholesome, family viewing, which are now “classics” on Nick at Night that I watch with my kids. Or of course to host a traveling food show like Guy Fieri. Probably could do both. Voiceovers for cartoons maybe but then my dashing Jersey-boy looks would go to waste.

9) How’s the TV show going? Tell us about it and where you see taking Johnny Meatballs in the near future and also in the long term.

Day one of filming I was a nervous wreck but once I got there I really felt relaxed. The cameras never bother me but this particular project involves cooking so there’s a lot more to consider besides if my hair is styled right and being funny. You gotta be entertaining and look good and all that, PLUS cook and make something correct in a certain amount of time that tastes good. I give all those “Chopped” chefs and all those in food competition shows a ton of credit; it’s no joke, man. As far as the near future, my independent documentary will be released probably in May, which was filmed over the course of the past year about my life—personal and professional. It’s a real underdog story that I think people are gonna really love!!!! Long term, well, one day I hope to eventually open a brick and mortar establishment.

10) Will your sons be taking over?

I honestly hope my kids go to college and become lawyers or doctors or teachers. They are both young but are definite natural entertainers themselves. Megin cringes at the thought of them thinking about anything related to show biz or the food biz, which really are such similar fields in terms of the “hustle” aspect. Whatever they want to become, I support them. To me, there’s no job or path in life one should be ashamed of or embarrassed about if they enjoy it. All I want for them is to be happy.

11) If you could be king, what would be the first 3 things you would do?

First and foremost, just help as many people I can by offering them opportunities. Let me explain. Whether you rule a country or are a CEO of an empire, that kind of power should not give you the authority to be selfish, rather, I would give all I could. And I don’t mean give handouts but bring people into the kingdom who have talents and have a genuine interest in using them to contribute something to others. That’s my idea of “spreading the wealth.” See I am not the type of person who steps on others trying to get ahead. I am always looking out for my friends and family and even strangers because I believe in karma. And when I reach the peak of that mountain, there won’t be a bunch of people who hate me, trying to assassinate me. All those people will be right there at the top with me and we’ll all do our thing together and help the next group coming up. Second, although I probably would be unable to eliminate extremism, which I think is our biggest problem in 2014, I would create what I like to call a series of “nucleus” organizations to help moderate and balance some of the madness we got out there. Everything today……I don’t care if it’s social issues, religious, economical, political, whatever the topic……it gets either downplayed as meaningless and unimportant by one side or exaggerated to a level of fear if you don’t believe it by the opposite side. Where’s the middle? We need more moderate thinkers who can weigh all sides and see both angles. Understanding and balance are the two keys to creating a real modern change in all the turmoil we have. You asked for three, so the third thing I would do is arrest all vegetarians. Just kidding. I’d truly try to figure out a way to fix healthcare where everyone is happy. Again, the greatest thing we are suffering from is the division these extreme terms cause. Socialism….Capitalism….I’m tired of having these all or nothing choices. I would be the king of unification. Still king of meatballs too, of course.

12) What are your pet peeves?

Major pet peeve of mine is knee-jerk reactions usually seen in excess on social media. People comment and share links based on shocking headlines, which generally have nothing to do with the article itself and the link sharer usually fails to even bother reading the article. But even worse than that is not doing research and forming your own opinion on a particular piece of news or any current event (or historical) social topic. Writers and media have their own agendas and now fb/twitter makes things even more skewed and actually reporting in general seems to be a mess. Majority of real journalism has pretty much been totally replaced by social media and that’s more than a pet peeve; that’s downright scary! Remember the famous “Dewey Defeats Truman” newspaper headline story that was in the ’40s and how many of those moments like that can you recall from then until the turn of the century? You’d be hard-pressed to compile a list, but today, it seems multiple times PER DAY you have the public trading misinformation because every outlet is in competition in this instant gratification/TMZ obsessed society of ours. I also hate traffic. Despise it. And kind of get peeved at vegetarianism (not kidding this time)…and atheism…Hey not that I won’t be your friend if you don’t eat meat or believe in God. I can respect anyone’s choices as long as you’re not sitting there trying to shove it down MY THROAT 24 hours a day and too many people in both those groups seem to always be out picketing, causing commotion and traffic, as if there’s not enough here in Jersey already. Oh, gotta add running out of toilet paper in the house and having nothing to wipe yourself with except coffee filters… That’s rough.

13) Would you rather be trapped in a room with 100 people farting non-stop for 24 hours or not make meatballs for 1 year?

I probably got a tad long-winded on some of these answers so I will keep this short. I rolled thousands and thousands and thousands of meatballs in the past five years and think enough people in my life have seen me do it. So I could give my palms a rest for a year and have someone take my place for a year. Is that allowed? Gas and crap make me instantly gag, so I’d vomit uncontrollably on all 100 farters if I were trapped with them. (1110)

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