Maialino is a Danny Meyer restaurant (Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, Eleven Madison Park, Shake Shack) situated on Gramercy Park at the Gramercy Park Hotel. The concept of Maialino is that it is like a Roman trattoria serving traditional dishes from Rome while also using what is in season locally. I wasn’t sure what to expect as I had been to Union Square Cafe and Gramercy Tavern, both not during Restaurant Week, and found the former very good and the latter, less than stellar.
Apparently, Maialino attracts celebrities, as I did see Bob Saget asking for a table when I walked in to meet my party. The dining room is pleasant and bustling during lunch, with a somewhat rustic feel.
As I couldn’t decide a wine to order, our excellent waiter recommended two and brought me a sample of each. Both were very good recommendations, and I chose one. For antipasti, we ordered Salumi Misti–Assorted Salumi & Olives
and Spuma di Carciofo–Artichoke Mousse on Toasted Filone.
The salumi plate was average. Being Italian, I have had better and am a harsh judge. The artichoke mousse was just OK. For our entrees, we ordered Saltimbocca di Pollo–Chicken Cutlet, Sage & Prosciutto, Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe–Pecorino & Black Pepper,
and Bombolotti all’Amatriciana–Spicy Tomato & Guanciale.
I thought the Restaurant Week menu could have been more diverse, as two pasta dishes were spicy and two pasta dishes contained pork, which is a tricky ingredient to have on a menu, as a lot of people have a dietary restriction regarding pork. While I did not try the chicken cutlet, both my friends said it was peppery. My friend was very unhappy with the tonnarelli, as cracked pepper was generously dispersed throughout the dish. The pepper was very overpowering, as I tried it as well. The waiter graciously offered her an alternative from the Restaurant Week menu. She chose the Minestra d’Abbachio–Baby Lamb, Summer Beans & Cippoline, which was a soup. I sampled this dish as well and the lamb was a fatty cut that had imparted a greasy flavor and was a bit tough.
While the menu had traditional Roman ingredients like artichokes, pecorino, lamb, etc. with again, traditional inexpensive cuts, and traditional Roman dishes like cacio e pepe, the dishes, for me and my friends, lacked flavor, to the extent that the heat from the pepper was overpowering and not an enhancement, and I just think there could have been a better execution of the traditional ingredients.
For dessert, we had the Crostata di Mirtillo–Blueberry Tart & Fior di Latte Gelato, which was good,
the Piatto di Formaggi–Three Cheeses & Sunflower Honey and the Panna Cotta–Anise Hyssop Custard & Greenmarket Strawberries, which was the best dessert.
For those of you who avoid the licorice flavor of anise, try this dessert. The anise is subtle and the custard is a quite pleasant ending to the meal, and the highlight of the Restaurant Week menu at Maialino.
For some fun, check out the “Translyvanian chic” (as my friend called it) lobby of Gramercy Park Hotel. Not sure what look they were going for, perhaps to be featured as a locale in a modern vampire/werewolf movie? I was expecting someone named Igor to ask me if he could help me find my way through the dark labyrinth to the restroom. But instead, out walked Danny DeVito, from the elevator bank and into a taxi cab. If I could venture a guess, he was probably on his way to a different Italian restaurant.