Hearing good things about Maialino, I cannot help but make a reservation during Restaurant Week when I found out they are participating. It’s inexpensive compared to what one would pay for lunch, as most of their pastas hover in the upper teens, as the main courses are in the twenty dollar range. And it’s run by Danny Meyer’s restaurant group, generally speaking over my many years of eating out, a bad experience is rarely encountered. I’ve asked three friends to join me and we’re all hungry, anticipating greatness as to what Chef Anderer’s kitchen has in store.
Entering the dark lobby of the Gramercy Park Hotel yet as I’m into the bar area, the bar and dining area are bright and rustic with dark walnut wood. It feels pretty cozy.
As all of my friends met up and seated, we’re bestowed with their bread basket of pizza bianca and a crusty country bread with a side of fruity olive oil to dip. The breads were good but I’ve eaten better bianca.
The carciofini fritti or fried artichokes served with anchovy bread sauce was pretty damn tasty. Hot, crispy and acidic these edible buds were one of the table’s favorites on this course.
Salumi is becoming the typical fare around Italian restaurants these days. Reading earlier reviews on this place, they make their own salumi and it seems like they’ve improved. The platter of mortadella, soppressata piccante, prosciutto di Parma with a side of mixed olives were pretty good. The mortadella was flavorful with little bits of pistachio within it to add some crunch. The sopressata picante was spicy and dry (in a good way). The prosciutto was melt in your mouth but not the best one I ever ate.
In case you haven’t noticed by now, I like to eat offals a lot and I had a lot of hope for this dish since the NY Times did recommend this dish. The tripe was soft, tender and lightly coated in a sweet tomato sauce. Personally, I like my tripe with a kick.
The smoked swordfish was the other favorite my table tried. The fish is lightly salty and smoky and the arugula’s bitter and crunchy bite was very welcoming with its lemony, bright dressing.
Prepared in mind that Maialino’s primi or pasta was their strong suit, we mostly stayed with the pastas and one chicken dish.
The bombolotti all’Amatriciana was a good bowlful of pasta but it wasn’t spicy as I was expecting it should be; it’s more sweet-savory. Overlooking that part, everything else was good. The pasta was on the al dente side and the tomato sauce was thick and meaty.
I was excited to eat the Malfatti al Maialino. Pork is my favorite meat and since the restaurant’s name means “little pig” the kitchen should make pork dishes well. This didn’t disappoint. Large chunks of succulent, tender pork thinly layered with thin sheets of eggy pasta strewn with arugula on top. I do appreciate the use of bright acid in the sauce to offset the possible heftiness and sweetness from the pork. The arugula was the bitter bite to tie in the pasta dish together.
The ricotta ravioli was another strong dish. The ravioli were made perfectly – rolled out thinly as possible yet thick enough to hold the creamy, chive-flecked ricotta cheese filling.
The only disappointing one was the chicken Milanese. It’s not poorly cooked or anything but it didn’t excite anyone in my table. The chicken was juicy and crisp with a touch of lemon but it didn’t strike me as amazing chicken.
Moving onto desserts, the panna cotta was very good. Ridiculously creamy and soft without being gelatinous and delicately flavored with sage, topped with a sweet strawberry and raspberry compote.
I really enjoyed the Torta di Olio d’ Oliva (olive oil cake). The moist, fine crumbed, citrus-y and fruity cake was very minimalist but it was very memorable.
The Torta di Ricotta e Visciol, ricotta cheese cake with sour cherry jam was pretty good. Nicely balanced with barely sweetened cheese and sour cherry with a pastry crust, it’s enjoyable to eat.
The cheese plate was a trio of Pecorino Romano DOP, Gorgonzola Cremificato, and Taleggio di Bufala served with sunflower honey. The pecorino was pleasantly salty and crumbly, the gorgonzola was dense and creamy without being spicy and funkier as the mountain gorgonzola would. The taleggio was creamy, pungent and mushroom-y in flavor (not particularly well liked in my table except for me, as they don’t love cheese as I do).
In all, I like this restaurant for its well cooked Italian fare. Service was somewhat attentive (it’s expected since it is Restaurant Week) but at least they’re running as a well oiled machine and they are knowledgeable as to what is being served. I would go there on a non-RW day and hope that their breakfast would be amazing as Serious Eats say it is.