Maialino – another Danny Meyer spot in the Gramercy area, but with an Italian twist. As I’ve said in past posts, aside from Shake Shack, Danny Meyer’s restaurants never blow me away. They’re a safe bet – good for family outings, business dinners, formal dates – the food is solid and never fails, but it rarely merits a distraction from the conversation. Maialino runs along this typical Danny Meyer theme, but offers some of his best dishes I’ve tasted. And like all of his restaurants, the interior is absolutely stunning. Eclectic modern art adorns the brasserie-esque space, and though the wooden chairs and checkered floor emphasize a casual, laid back feel, the stunning flowers and long black bar preserve its sense of sophistication. The waitstaff, also common to all Meyer establishments, is excellent as well. There is an abundance of servers catering to each table, though not overbearingly so, and they glide by with beaming smiles – so much that I could have been convinced I was outside of New York City. With an extensive, well rounded menu, exceptionally accommodating waitstaff, a gorgeous, airy interior, and a view of the lush Gramercy Park, it seems like Maialino is a New York establishment with an infinite lifespan.
The meal started off with a bang – the bread came out before we ordered! I hate places that like to gauge the size of your order before deciding on your allocation of bread. The basket was filled with a good variety of Italian breads – all crusty and salt free, aside from the thin breadsticks. We then started off with the crostini di piselli e fave – four pieces of ricotta smothered thin crostini with a generous pile of bright green pea and fava bean puree. The flavors in this dish were reminiscent of spring… vibrant, and fresh. I loved it, nd the light dusting of parmesan on top rounded out the mild flavors of the ricotta and pea mixture perfectly.
The pasta course was a tough call for me, but after summoning the waitress’S advice, I opted for the bucatini all’Amatriciana, a thick hollow spaghetti with a hearty bacon-onion tomato sauce. The pasta was surprisingly light, as the guanciale was sparse and subtle. The noodles themselves were dense and al dente. Overall, it was a very simple yet well-executed and flavorful dish.
New York Magazine voted Maialino for best roast chicken in New York city, so in spite of its renowned namesake dish (maialino is suckling pig), we went for a crispy roast chicken and the waitress’s other recommendation, the Pesca Spada, or swordfish. The roast chicken actually could have been one of the best I’ve had in New York. Flattened to a uniform thickness, it wasn’t served as a typical Italian roast chicken, but it had tons of flavor of the drippings and skin, and was utterly tender, white and dark meat alike. The chicken is served in solace on a white plate amidst thin layer of juice; the clean presentation really encourages the diner to appreciate its quality.
The swordfish, also in true Roman style, was a very straight forward yet solid dish. The fish was dense, as to be expected with swordfish, but had a little more of a tender give that I liked. The wild mushroom bunch and fennel on the side were excellent – obviously sauteed in both oil and butter, they seemed like an indulgence more than a healthy side.
The dessert options all seemed quintessentially Roman and delicious – simple cakes dolloped with creams, tarts, tartufo, and gelati. Considering we had a $200 gift certificate (thanks to my wonderful team at work!!!), we ordered both the gelati, which consisted of pistachio, fior di late, and chocolate, and the rasberry tart. I loved the tart – it wasn’t overbearingly sweet as tarts and pies so often are. In fact, it was a bit on the sour side, but along with its side of unsweetened creme fraiche, it formed such a unique combination. The gelati were delicious, though the chocolate was a bit more intense and dark than I like for ice cream. Melted onto a biscotti, though, it tasted just fine!
I feel very fortunate to have had a reservation on a Thursday evening at Maialino. The chicken was definitely the highlight of the night, and alone probably enough to bring me back, but I wouldn’t be hugely disappointed if I never returned. I mean, there’s always the 20 other sceney-impossible to get a table at-celebrity chef-italian restaurants in the city I could try! Still, the Danny Meyer sighting mid-meal is a thrill I could only find at Maialino
Address: 2 Lexington Avenue at 21st Street