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Maialino - Anyone been?

Wondering if any Chowhounders have made it to Danny Meyer's new restaurant and have thoughts/opinions to share.

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  1. We went there last Wed night (more than a week ago), which I believe was their first official opening night. As you probably already know, it's a Roman-style Italian restaurant. The decor was nice in a low key way - there's a large bar area when you walk in, where you can eat from a bar menu and drink from a wide selection of wine. They have a machine the seals open wine bottles, so they are able to offer slightly higher end (but not extravagant) wines by the glass? The entire restaurant feels pretty airy and open. Some might think it's a bit sterile though. Service was fantastic - given that it was their first night, our server knew about 70% of the menu, which was impressive. Of course, this is to be expected from a Danny Meyer restaurant.

    How was the food? Decent, but not great. We ordered:
    * free bread basket; pizza bianca plus pugliese straight from Sullivan Street Bakery - no need to reinvent the wheel :) Bonus, the olive oil they use is fantastic - smooth with the fragrance of a clean, grassy field
    * a speck appetizer
    * pig's feet appetizer - a nice starter that was reminiscent of roast pig in a Chinese bbq establishment - crispy skin with some tender meat inside, served over beans; Make sure there are no vegetarians at the table, as it's one large piece of foot :)
    * octopus carpaccio appetizer - this was octopus that had been gelatinized and then sliced thinly - the pieces were a little rubbery in texture and in taste (and I love octopus when done right - see 15 East)
    * spaghetti carbonara - very simply executed, with only egg and guanciale and maybe one other ingredient (but no cream). I love guanciale, but in this case, it was very, um, robust tasting, and there were too many pieces that overwhelmed the other flavors in the dish.
    * bucatini all'amatriciana - my favorite dish, the texture of the pasta was great, though my gf thought it was too al dente. The guanciale here was balanced by the spiciness and acidity of the sauce, so it worked as a whole; I think this specific dish might have been comparable to the one I had at Lupa. Note that the pasta dishes are fairly small (8 inch plates), so you have plenty of room for secondi.
    * lamb chops with caponata - a disappointment; the server recommended, and we asked for, medium rare, but they came overcooked. As a result, the meat was bland yet slightly gamey. The caponata was nice, slightly sweet without overdoing it.
    * bean+ escarole side dish, plus one other that I'm struggling to remember
    * cup of macchiato (fantastic!) they get it from San Francisco and affogato dessert - also great, but due to the quality of the coffee :)

    Note that we did not get the namesake suckling pig dish. I would probably return every now and then, but I'm not craving their food. Alternatively, this would be a nice place for slightly higher end happy hour drinks plus some quality bar food.

    1 Reply
    1. re: NYAngeleno

      Good report---thanks much for posting!

    2. I went with 4 friends this past wednesday and i feel pretty much the same way NYAngeleno does. We also enjoyed the bread basket - though they served complimentary guanciale pecorino rolls...think cinnamon bun but savory. AMAZING! Had the Octopus/potato appetizer...overcooked and simply a sleeper of a dish. The lamb sweetbreads were few and not particularly well cooked or seasoned. The batter seemed to overwhelm the sweetbread, however, the heirloom cauliflower was a perfect match for the batter. Had the carbonara (eh), amatriciana (yum!!), and raviolo al uovo (i was hoping for more runny egg yolk and less cheesy filling). The texture was there with the pastas however, nice and al dente tho some at the table felt it was undercooked. I guess i like a bite. We did get the maialino al forno. First off, this is NOT for 2. Its def for 2-5! I love suckling pig and its a tradition (cuban) for my family every Christmas. It was very well done and served with potatoes cooked in the piggy fat - beautifully carmelized. I noticed the other girls at the table taking the shoulder meat and leaving the bones behind! Eat the bones - there is not only amazingly juicy, flavorful dark meat, but also succulent marrow! On to dessert! we ordered the tartufo - good if you are like me and enjoy chocolate ice cream covering in a chocolate coating w/ a few brandied cherries in the center. Olive oil cake served with orange mascarpone cheese - good...but abraco olive oil cake has spoiled me for life. and the best part of the night (right along with the guanciale rolls) was the sformato di ricotta served with figs, buckwheat honey from the beekeeper (sells at u sq. market), and a touch of balsamic. the texture was soooo creamy and decadent - but light in our full bellies.
      All in all - i MAY go again sometime, but would prob opt for otto or lupa instead. The space is nicely done - and you can see the dessert, bread, and salumi stations which is a plus!
      Hope this helps you decide!
      If you would like to see some pics from our night, check out my friend Tran's blog:
      http://foodactually.blogspot.com/2009...

      -----
      Maialino
      2 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010

      1. Thank you both for the great detailed reviews! Think I won't rush in. Will stick to my favorites instead.

        1. Four of us went to Maialino this evening. Had a terrific meal. Good service, comfortable room and a view out to the street and the snow.

          Four different pastas were all excellent. Main dish of the baked pork was outstanding. Certainly enough for three to share if ordering sides. Crispy skin, great meat. Very well done. I've not found one done so well in this country. The roast potatoes alongside were also superb. Baked eggplant parmesan as a special entree for another at the table. Similar to how it is served in Rome. Also terrific. Great cheese selection to finish and salumi to start. As Danny Meyer says, a restaurant needs six months to really hit its stride. We thought this place delivered tonight. Its an excellent option for trattoria style Italian.

          1. I was just about to post this same question, as we have reservations on Christmas night. Hopefully, some more folks will respond to this post. I'm interested in hearing about the best dishes and what, if anything, to avoid.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Slob

              my wife and i went last saturday and while the food was good to very good, the service was laughably bad, which was very surprising.

              we were seated fairly promptly in table next to the windows that look out on to 21st street and gramercy park. then we waited a good 10 minutes before a waiter came over to give us money and fill our water glasses. after that, another good 10 minutes before taking our drink orders and then some more time before taking our dinner orders. i should mention that i like when a waiter is excited about what is on the menu. however, our waiter decided he would give us the play by play on just about every dish and kept pushing us to order more. i hate that.

              after plowing through most of the excellent bread basket (the pizza bianco and cheesesticks are outstanding) we waited another 15 minutes for our starters to arrive. the fried artichokes were very good. crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, served with a nice and creamy anchovy bread sauce. these were excellent. we also shared the spaghetti with cockles. this was very good as well with a nice amount of cockles and a subtle heat from almost hidden chili flakes. we noticed that the kitchen had actually split this order in two for the couple next to us, but they didn't do it for us.

              it was around this point that service really deteriorated. our empty dishes sat for a long long time on the table. once they were cleared, i asked our waited if i could look at the wine list again. he dropped it off and disappeared, not to be seen from until he dropped dessert menus on our table nearly an hour and a half later.

              finally our mains arrived. although our waiter said that their kitchens' medium would be perfect for the lamb chops, the chops still came out a bit overcooked but nothing too serious. only issue was that they chops were a bit bland and overpowered by the accompanying caponata. my wife's swordfish looked nice and moist but i didn't taste it. the side of brussel sprouts with chestnuts were a waste. mushy, too lemony, and completely off-balanced. not worth it, especially considering the caponata was a substantial portion and so was whatever accompanied the swordfish.

              and then again we waited and waited. eventually dessert menus were brought and our waited went into a 5 minute speech about how great their microroastedharvestednewfadwestcoast coffee was ijusthadtohaveit even though it was closing in on midnight. but i'm a sucker for coffee and this was good. however, the coffee comes in a 3-4 cup french press and is definitely too much for one person. the gelato we ordered we very good too (pistachio was excellent, the fior de late was nice and creamy and the chocolate was very very rich).

              as soon as the last scoop was finished, bam the check appeared, 3 hours later. now i don't mind a long meal, but the interminable waits between courses and the very pushy service really ticked me off. on top of that, this is not a cheap trattoria meal. antipasti is in the $10-$20 range, pastas are in the $15-$20 range and the entrees are in the $25-40 range. and they give you the hard sell of, each person should get an antipasta, a primi and an entree. this was actually the first time in a long time that i gave less than a 20% tip.

              my advice: give it some time to work these kinks out or just go to the front bar area, grab a ok-priced quartino (ok when compared with bar jamon down the block) and some of the antipasti.

              total cost with tip and tax: $206 for 1 antipasti, 1 pasta, 1 sliver of cheese, 2 entrees, 1 side dish, 1 dessert, 2 quartinos of wine, 1 glass of wine, and a tea and coffee.

              1. re: jon

                Service was very disappointing last night as well -- 45 minute wait for a table even though we had a reservation and we were told "running a little bit late tonight, 10-15 minutes" upon arrival, lots of excuses and little action. Once we sat down we had problems getting a drink order filled, and the only way I found out that they had a "special" dessert for Christmas (peppermint affogato with hot chocolate) is because the table next to us ordered it. Food is good but they really need to work through the service issues. Who know that someone would ever say that about a Danny Meyer restaurant?

                -----
                Maialino
                2 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010

                1. re: jon

                  Totally being nitpicky here - the review was excellent and makes me wonder since I've been pleased with all 3 Meyer spots I've been to - " then we waited a good 10 minutes before a waiter came over to give us money and fill our water glasses"

                  If a restaurant wanted to give me money, I'd wait. ;-)

                  1. re: uhockey

                    sorry, meant menu not money. money would have been nice though.

              2. We went for Christmas Eve dinner. The staff is incredibly nice and friendly. Our waiter was particularly patient as we had a fair number of questions in terms of portion sizes and couldn't make up our minds as to what to order.

                Bread basket -- as stated by others is awesome. Pizza Bianca from Sullivan Street Bakery! So good! Those cheesesticks! Amazing. Pugliese. Etc. I also like that they were generous in refilling our olive oil, and they leave out some Maldon sea salt on the table.

                For our appetizer we shared the sweetbread salad with candied walnuts. It was good, how can deep fried sweetbreads be bad? I didn't think the radicchio added much to the dish but my husband really liked it. The portion was pretty tiny, though we did get about 6-7 nuggets of sweetbread. Felt more like a single serving than something shareable. Tasty but not particularly memorable. I think next time we'll sample the salumi.

                We then split the bucatini, which was really nice. Excellent gianciale. I thought the pasta was just slightly overdressed but that was OK because even though there was a lot of it, the sauce itself was quite well executed. Nice and chewy strands of pasta. There are a lot of good looking pastas on the menu, too, it was hard to choose just one to share.

                Our main was the namesake suckling pig. Fantastic. Like mainlining pork. Fragrant with rosemary. Crispy, wonderful skin. Tender potatoes. Succulent, well seasoned meat. Delicious. Fatty. Impossible to finish. We each ate one slice and a handful of potatoes and were pretty much done.

                They packed it up for us (WITH the remains of the bread basket) and put it in the coat check area so we didn't have to have it at our table. Great service, almost scarily friendly and thoughtful.

                For dessert, some affogato. That Four Bottle Espresso is delightful. My husband was "full" but ended up eating about half of my affogato. Note to self: order two next time.

                Can't wait to go back and have more cheesesticks, pizza bianca, and try the salumi and other pastas. It'll be tough to resist the maialino al forno, though....

                1. Has anyone been to the new breakfast/brunch seating?

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: uhockey

                    I went yesterday. I had reservations, but there were plenty of tables available. I had the uova al contadino. The brussel sprouts were great, but the poached eggs were pretty bland and the whites were puckered. My friend enjoyed his spaghetti carbonara, and I loved his citrus scone. Our server was very friendly and helpful, but I experienced the same lengthy waits others did at dinner. Coffee took 10 minutes from ordering. The meal took 45 minutes to reach the table, and we only got an update from our server literally seconds before the food finally came out. Dishes took a while to clear. But, on the plus side, they let us order a second round of drinks and linger after our meal since they weren't busy.

                    1. re: Lucia

                      I went during my visit.

                      Small portions, average food, no refills on the coffee, and high prices - would NOT return. Service was average, certainly not up to the standard I've experienced at Meyer's higher end places.

                      1. re: uhockey

                        Hmm seems like mixed reviews so far. This is expected with a new restaurant I guess, but Danny Meyer should be better. I have high expectations.

                  2. We had dinner there on Christmas night. The hostesses were very smiley and cordial. Terrific greeting.

                    We had early reservations at 5:30, but they were already out of the sweetbread appetizer, which was very odd. So we went with the pigs foot and beans app. The tiny amount of meat on the foot was very tasty. The beans were also delicious, but there just wasn't enough meat on the foot to make it a worthwhile app.

                    We ordered some roasted potatoes off the sides menu to nibble on, and they were pretty tasteless.

                    I had the Amatriciana (sp?) and my beautiful companion had the carbonara. I thought the Amatriciana was delicious. We both thought the carbonara was super bland. The only flavor we tasted was an overpowering black pepper.

                    For dessert, we had the apple cake, which was very moist and tasty and the pine nut lemon tart, which was also quite delicious. It was very lemony.

                    The service was pleasant and attentive.

                    Overall, I'd give it a B. I'd probably go back but definitely wouldn't consider it a destination restaurant. It's a beautiful room though.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Slob

                      They looked pretty busy on Christmas Eve and I'm assuming that no suppliers were delivering on Christmas Day, so maybe that's why they were out of sweetbreads.

                      The portions do seem on the smaller side, FWIW. Sounds like you had the bucatini all'amatriciana (guanciale and tomato sauce)?

                      1. re: kathryn

                        You're right that the portions are rather small. That is the amatriciana dish that I had. Pretty sure that's the only amatriciana dish on the menu. We couldn't get over how tasteless the carbonara was aside from the overwhelming black pepper flavor.

                        1. re: kathryn

                          Sorry to hear that they have small portions. I have heard they give you ONE ravioli. That is pretty ridiculous in my eyes. Don't know about the other dishes. How are the sizes of the mains? Still, being a Danny Meyer restaurant this has vaulted to the top of my "must try" list. Especially since I am a lover of all things pork and that suckling pig looks divine. Can't wait to try it out soon.

                          1. re: steakrules85

                            The pig is enough for 4-5 people IMO.

                      2. I went this past weekend and thought it was amazing. We just had apps in the bar but all were fanatastic. Little pecorino cheese rolls with bacon were so savory; tomato and mozzarealla risotto balls just exploded with flavor and the swordfish belly was out of this world. I would go back again for those three dishes in a heartbeat.

                        1 Reply
                        1. SO went last night after I read this very helpful thread to him. He didn't have a reservation, bar was packed but he managed to get seated at a table. He had the artichokes and an oxtails ("best ever had"). It was about 15 min. before his server came. Sounds like they are still going through the newbie kinks, surprising for a Danny Meyer restaurant.