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Osteria Morini or Maialino

Have a table for 2 on a Saturday night. Have to decide between 8:00 at OM or 10:00 at Maialino. Looking for a good scene but hipsters at a minimum, as well as casual, regional Italian food. And wine is at a premium. Given the times in play here, which one would you go with? Thanks.

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  1. How well do you and your dining partner do with eating at 10pm? It's too late for me (and I live in Italy!). It's not that I get too hungry to wait for dinner past 8, it's that I don't like eating a big meal without having sufficient time to digest it before heading to bed. But if you are heading off after to dance until dawn, then maybe a 10pm pasta and pork fix wouldn't mean a night that ends in heartburn.

    I've not eaten at Maialino at 10pm, so I don't know how often, if ever, they run out of things on Saturday nights. But that would be a consideration for me.

    Last but not least, how do you and your dining partner feel about the Roman food at Maialino that stays fairly close to what Romans actually eat vs. a kind of pan-Italian themed menu of dishes gussied up with cream, carmelized this-and-that, and non-Italian inventions? Looking at Osteria Morini's current menu online, doesn't appear Sam Sifton was wrong when he wrote in the NYT that Osteria Morini "puts Italian traditions through the American supersize machine."

    5 Replies
    1. re: barberinibee

      It was a pleasant surprise to see you posting on the Manhattan board. I'm assuming from your comment that Maialino "stays fairly close to what Romans actually eat" that you liked the food? We're taking a quick jaunt down to NYC with our young adult son and were considering a meal here. Even my teenaged sons say "yours is better, Mom" about most of what passes for "Italian" here.

      1. re: lisaonthecape

        hi lisaontheescape,

        I chased you over here from the ketchup thread. I answered you there, but it all got deleted. Don't know if you will ever see this here.

        Yes, I did like the food I ate at Maialino, and precisely because it was closer to what I'm accustomed to eating in Rome. I've found a few other menus in off-the-wall places in NYC where you don't find bizarre "Italian" dishes you would never see in Italy, but Maialino uses quality ingredients throughout, so it's the only one that I can recommend.

        1. re: barberinibee

          Thanks for tracking me down. They don't look to have any available reservations, but we might try our chances at the bar. We need an Italy fix to hold us until our next trip.

          1. re: lisaonthecape

            Sure! Glad you found it.

            Don't be surprised if your son still says "Not as good as yours," and I think very highly of Maialino and the strong discipline they are applying to their craft. There is something about the improvisations of the kitchen and the combining of boiling hot pasta and sauce and everybody in the group sharing a large dish from a large recipe that makes Italian dishes more satisfying when cooked at home than in a restaurant. I think that is even true in Italy. Great food culture, scattershot restaurant culture.

            Very intelligent wine list I think at Maialino. Especially nice because it is so affordable. Had a great white from Etna in Sicily and a red from Campania. Depends on what food you order, of course, but I like their selections overall.

            1. re: barberinibee

              We decided not to chance the wait list at Maialino, so we opted for a late Sunday afternoon lunch at Lupa. Had a selection of decent salume (didn't try the more unusual offerings like lingua) and cacio e pepe. The pasta was sauced perhaps a touch more than you might find in Rome, but it fit the bill. I would happily return there. My son reports that the gnocchi was good, although I didn't taste it myself.

    2. There are young people [and older] at both restaurants. If by hipster, you mean the bearded, pickling Williamsburg archetype, then neither seemed particularly hipster-ish, though Osteria Morini's patrons leaned a bit more in that direction, perhaps owing to its Downtown location. Maialino feels a little more bourgeois; the hotel often hosts Europeans and even a few Beautiful People pulled by the Rose Bar. The staff at Maialino are prettier, for what that's worth...

      On the other hand, I think we saw Nina Garcia at OM. [shrugs]

      The pastas at Maialino and OM seemed similar in size -- they're not full Yank super-size, but they can seem a little larger than the European course. Depending on your appetite, heaviness of the particular dishes, contorni, etc, you may or may not want to order proper secondi. I recall now that the secondi at OM were very generous.

      Chef White's cuisine is northern [ rustic Emilia Romagna in this case] whilst Maialino is Roman.

      You can look up both wine lists online. I'm a claret and Burgundy man, so most of the Italians are unknown to me, especially outside the usual Tuscans and Piemontese, but I tried a Centesimino for the first time at OM, and it was surprisingly delicious. Will definitely look for this grape again.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Winterpool

        I know that Chef White markets his restaurant as Emilia Romagna, and there are more ER-inspired dishes on the menu than is typical for an American restaurant. But there is nothing at all "rustic" about his take on the cuisine of Emilia-Romagna. If anything, he's harkening back to Bolognese old days of pouring cream all over everything to impress Michelin critics passing through. Nowhere in ER would you find the amount of fat and sugar combined on a sinlge plate as OM's menu touts. When the NYT critic talked about "the American supersized machine," I don't think he was referring to portion size as much as inclinations like this: "He covers a fried veal cutlet with prosciutto and parmigiano, then cloaks it in truffle cream above a bed of buttered spinach." That is not rustic (nor is it ER).

        I do agree Maialino is more bourgeois. The first time I went I was surprised at the inflated feel of the space, because of its reputation (not undeserved) of being an homage to a Roman trattoria. You would never find a Roman trattoria approaching that size, with banquettes or a consistent decor. To me it has a funny atmosphere of combining both a business lunch plus ladies who lunch atmosphere in its dining areas. It is somewhat muted, which isn't how I think of a Roman trattoria either.

        1. re: barberinibee

          Ah, yes, one of my friends ordered that fried veal cutlet with truffle cream! He observed it was essentially chicken-fried steak for the SoHo set.

          There was rather a lot of cream in many of the dishes. [I would say the cuisine is rustic compared to the fussy -- 'French-y'? -- plating at White's posher establishments.]

          Definitely agree about Maialino: it's a bit too polished for a 'trattoria', though I don't know how much the hotel, Meyer, or the clientele are responsible.

        2. Both will probably be hell on a Saturday night, but I would bet on Maialino to be a bit more civilized by 10. OM is loud, loud, loud. Maialino's food is better too, and a little less cramped.

          1 Reply
          1. Neither are hipster-ish...and, while i've enjoyed meals at both, if you want "casual regional Italian food", i'd say go to the very low-key Sicilian place Cacio e Vino: order the best bottle of Sicilian wine that appeals to you, along w/ some bucatini w/ fennell, some salads, etc...