Sunday, September 26, 2010

I Went to There: Maialino

So on Friday night I went to Maialino, Danny Meyer's new -- well, 10-month-old -- Roman trattoria on the ground floor of the Gramercy Park Hotel. I've wanted to go to there for many, many months, since before it even opened when I was subsiding on 99-cent sacks of potatoes in rural Ireland and dreaming of suckling pig. Thanks to the really nice people I worked for over the summer, I got a prime reservation and a really amazing meal on the house -- there, that's my disclaimer for the Federal Trade Commission.

Maialino has a noisy (in a good way) front area with a long, walnut bar and an open cucina counter -- this area looks out onto Gramercy Park to the south and lower Lexington Avenue to the east. There is also a quieter dining area in back where tables are spaced further apart, and we were seated sort of on the border between the two -- a couple of tables away from Woody Allen and Soon-Yi -- you can imagine how many other diners around us were tweeting on the topic throughout the meal.

We decided to order something from every section on the traditional Roman menu. Our salumi was a Soppressata Piccante from Long Island City, which came in beautiful, nutty slices just in time to enjoy with the remnants of the bread basket. Our antipasti was Carciofini Fritti, perfectly warm and crispy fried artichoke hearts accompanied by an anchovy bread sauce. Everything seemed to come out precisely when it was ready and just minutes after our having finished the preceding plate, such that everything was texturally perfect and appropriately paced. Before our larger courses came out, our server brought us a plate with two little slices of crostini topped with ricotta, grainy sunflower honey, and juicy, soft, pink figs.

Our main courses were the highlights, even though everything I've already described could have made up a remarkable meal in itself. From the primi menu, we ordered the Malfatti Al Maialino, asymmetrical folds of eggy, homemade pasta with suckling pig ragu and fresh arugula. Our secondi was Pollo Alla Diavola, a half chicken pounded and roasted to a light crispy outer texture with black pepper and pickled chili. With the crackly, spicy skin and the garlicky bitterness of the accompanying broccoli rabe (ordered separately,) this dish might have been the most impressive. We polished off a quarter chicken each.

We finished off our bottle of Nero D'Avola from Firriato and ended the meal with an Affogato. I left feeling not as Sam Sifton suggested I might -- "panting a little, ready for sleep" -- but perfectly content with how the meal had lived up to my expectations.

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