In this solo dining adventure, Gary visits Maialino for their Restaurant Week lunch.
Not content with opening restaurants in museums and concession stands in ball parks, Danny Meyer now has a restaurant in a location that’s all the rage these days – a hotel. In 2009, he opened Maialino, a Roman trattoria in the Gramercy Park Hotel. If you haven’t been keeping track, he’s got America covered with Union Square Cafe and Gramercy Tavern, France with Eleven Madison Park, India with Tabla, and now Italian with Maialino. Clearly, the man has diverse taste and it continues to drive him to open up new restaurants utilizing different concepts, Shake Shack and Blue Smoke expansion locations aside. His previous restaurants have all been excellent, to varying degrees, so it wasn’t a question as to whether Maialino would succeed but how well it would in doing so.
You walk in and you know it’s a Danny Meyer joint – the service from the start is impeccable and the aesthetics of the space is gorgeous. It takes advantage of its location across the street from Gramercy Park with giant windows lining the 21st Street side of the restaurant to allow plenty of natural light, free of neighboring buildings, to filter inside. Even the little things like layout are well considered here with the bar area immediately situated upon entry and the formal dining area on the opposite end of the space with pastry and charcuterie stations across from one another separating the dining spaces. Speaking of the charcuterie station, you’ll no doubt notice plenty of pork hanging there. I suppose this would be a good time to mention that maialino is Italian for “little pig,” an animal that the restaurant pays great homage to.
I came here for the Restaurant Week lunch prix fixe but had no reservation. My fault really for trying to snag a Friday reservation well after the list of restaurants participating in Summer RW was published. No problem as the bar had a few empty seats and there are few simpler joys in life than to dine alone at the bar – just you, the food, perhaps a drink, and some light conversation with the bartender.
For my antipasti course, I went with the Trippa alla Trasteverina which was braised tripe done in a style you might find in Rome with pecorino and mint in a simple tomato sauce. The tripe was perfect with the stomach lining cooked until tender, almost melty. The texture of the tripe also gives the sauce, cheese, and mint plenty of places to cling to making this an easy dish to eat and extract as much flavor from as possible.
Moving onto the secondi portion of the meal, we have the Malfatti al Maialino, a pasta dish with a suckling pig ragu and arugula. Thin sheets of pasta (think ravioli width) cooked al dente mingling with succulent pork chunks while the arugula slightly wilts from the warmed rich, lemony sauce – it’s a wonderful plate of pasta.
For the dolci course, I had the Torta di Ricotta e Visciole which is basically a ricotta cheesecake with a sour cherry jam for a base. The ricotta filling is sweet and soft while the sour cherry jam provided a nice acidic counter to the rich cheese. The only downside was the pastry crust on top that made it difficult to cut into the cheesecake. A minor complaint really since it tasted so good.
With Maialino, Danny Meyer brings his signature style and quality to not only the Roman trattoria category but also the burgeoning hip hotel restaurant scene. The service here is excellent as can be expected and the rustic ambiance is evocative of what I would imagine a Roman trattoria to be like while incorporating some modern, industrial touches. I shouldn’t have to mention the food since you’ve probably figured out that I enjoyed my meal immensely but I’ll reiterate anyway – the food here is excellent. Also, everything I had is on their normal non-RW menu so you have no excuse not to at least try the food I had with my hearty recommendation.