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Nov 19, 2009 11:13 AM

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:

      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?

                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.