Monday, February 4, 2013

Maialino, revisited

It's been awhile since I've last visited Maialino. In fact, it's been 3 solid years. It's a shame really because I had really enjoyed my first visit there. But there are so many restaurants to try in NYC. I can't just go to one all the time. Well, I can. And for some places I do. Maialino isn't one of them but that in no part means it's bad at all. In fact, it's great. And my second visit only solidified that fact for me.
My sister and I like to celebrate our birthdays together. I normally poo poo that thought - I mean joint birthdays; not my sister. But getting a hold of her and her husband without the kids is near impossible. So twice a year, she promised time away from the kids for an adult dinner with just the four of us. One for the girls' birthday and one of the boys. We take turns picking the place. This year, it was her choice. She didn't have a cuisine in mind. Instead, she wanted a specific dish. She wanted the infamous raviolo. I suspect that she had recently watched an episode of No Reservations when Anthony Bourdain traveled to Italy with Michael White and enjoyed that egg yolk filled pasta in the farm fields. No matter where she got that idea, I had my work cut out for me. No restaurant really had it on their regular menu except SD26. Various lackluster reviews from anonymous sources as well as close friends closed the book on that one. But it was there as a backup. I looked all over and couldn't find anything. Then it dawned on me that I've had it before at Maialino. I even wrote about it. I don't prefer to do a repeat restaurant for my birthday. But a place like Maialino (or any Danny Meyer establishment) gets a pass. And so I inquired about the menu by calling and the kind host told me that it is not on the menu right now. It's usually a winter dish. Bingo! We have a winner. I promptly made reservations far in advance and we were on our way to pork heaven...with a side of raviolo of course.

We arrived to a bustling dining room filled with people enjoying the food, drinks, and themselves. It's just as I remembered it. We were sat quickly as we arrived on time. This time we sat smack in the middle of the room with a view of the bar, stations, and other patrons. Perfect for people watching. We perused the menu a bit and the ordered to our delight. It was about celebrating and indulging. And so we did.

We started with the Prosciutto di Parma ($11) Soppressatta Piccante ($8) which was a last minute addition. My sister really wanted this but didn't speak up until after we ordered. But slicing some cured meats isn't too difficult and we happily munched on this until the hot appetizers arrived. The prosciutto was buttery and fatty with the soppressatta wasn't spicy enough. Nice meat to fat ratio though.
For our hot appetizers, my brother in law went for the Polpo alla Piastra ($15) which was seared octopus with sunchokes and almonds in a citrus sauce. The octopus was extremely tender and a delight. I really enjoyed the added citrus which brightened up the dish with its acidity. Not all winter dishes have to be heavy.
Next, we shared some pasta. First, the Tonnarelli a Cacio e Pepe ($16) which was long, round pasta with pecorino cheese and black pepper. We all thought it was a bit salty. But we finished the plate. We're salt fiends. And the second pasta was the Trenette all’ Orto ($18) which was another long stranded pasta with a slightly bitter pesto sauce. I enjoyed this one better. Well balanced, light, and refreshing. I even liked the slight bitterness. It really stood out in a good way.
And now the Raviolo al Uovo ($15). The one dish my sister was waiting for. This version was quite the classic with the filling made of ricotta cheese, spinach, and an egg yolk. The pasta was so thin that you can see the filling under it. A bit of light brown sauce completed it.
And this is where the magic happens. One gentle slice and the egg yolk came oozing out gloriously. We took turns tasting it and sopped up the yolk. And what did my sister think? She said it was okay. I loved it. The difference between her and I? I love runny yolks. She doesn't.
At this point, we could have left and felt completely satisfied. But we were there to indulge, were we not? Onto the entrees! I received a very smart recommendation from TT to order the Spigola ($68) which was a salt baked sea bass with lemon and Sicilian oregano potatoes. They presented the fish to use first before plating it. How beautiful!
And even more beautiful when plated! Okay so $68 may be a lot but this fed the four of us with our fat pants on. Yes we had appetizers and such. But normally, this could feed 2-3 people with normal appetites. It's worth it. The fish was so tender and not overly salty at all. The side salad of arugula balanced out the lemony potatoes with its bitterness. It didn't need the roasted garlic but that wasn't left on the plate in vain. This was truly a great dish.
And because we can, we also had the restaurant's namesake dish: the Maialino Al Forno ($38). Since my last visit, they now offer a smaller serving of the roast suckling pig. This was perfect for our meal. The pork didn't seem that big but its richness and fattiness will get to you. It always does. We shared the crispy skin, the tender meat underneath, and the crisp potatoes soaking up all the juices. Another solid dish.
To make ourselves feel better, we ordered a bunch of vegetable sides starting with: the Spinaci ($8) - sauteed spinach with olive oil and lemon; the Cavolini di Bruxelles ($8) - roasted brussels sprouts with chili and pancetta; and the Funghi Trifolati ($14) - sauteed mushrooms with white wine and anchovies. Each of these dishes played a very important role in this meal. Without them, we wouldn't  have been able to finish the pork. The mix of fresh and light to heavy and hearty worked well here.
After all that, we still had room for dessert. Boom! We shared the Tiramisu ($9) which was one of the best I've ever had. Not too soft, not too much liquor. Just the right balance of ladyfingers to coffee to liquor to cream. Even Mr. M&P which doesn't normally enjoy this dessert said it was good.
And how could we not have something with chocolate? The Budino di Cioccolato ($9) - chocolate croissant bread pudding and hazelnut gelato - was ridiculously good. It came warm which helped keep the chocolate soft and creamy. The croissants were so buttery and rich. The accompanying gelato added even more richness to the this dish. Due to this dessert, Mr. M&P agreed to try other bread puddings in the future. Yes, it does wonders.
And the final capoff was some Amari ($7) which is an Italian liqueur as an after dinner digestif made with herbs, plants, sticks, etc. It's reminiscent of root beer but much stronger and alcoholic. The specific one we tried was the Cio Ciaro from Lazio. Now, you may think we're sophisticated and well informed of Italian food and drink. It's a lie. It's all a lie. We were introduced to this lovely drink by the waiter. We just simply asked about it since there was no description. He did a wonderful job explaining it, it's history, and the wide range of flavors we would encounter. Then he came back with 4 shots of amari for us to taste. He was more than hospitable. He went the extra effort. We tasted it and enjoyed it very much. Even I liked it and I don't like root beer. Due to this wonderful experience, we all will probably order amari another day after dinner. It really did helped with digestion.
Another wonderful meal had at Maialino. Danny Meyer really has not done us wrong. The high quality of food and service that he demands of his employees is unmatched. Bravo! Bravo!

Gramercy Park Hotel
2 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10010
(212) 777-2410


  1. glad the whole was as good as when I had it.

    excellent restaurant!

  2. What a fantastic looking, and no doubt, tasting meal.

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Great looking meal.
    Mmm Pig!! And CHOCOLATE!!


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