It has been my experience that “celeb” chefs and restaurateurs truly earn their status in the industry. Food critics are very particular with their pallet and have no qualms giving their honest opinion. The future of a venue hangs on their every adjective, especially in New York.
Many hot-spots opened in 2009, but the two that stuck out in my mind from reading the reviews were Maialino from Danny Meyer (of Union Square Cafe and Eleven Madison Park) and Colicchio and Sons from Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio (of the the Craft restaurants). Coincidentally, they have a history as partners and won much acclaim for Gramercy Tavern, their collaboration which opened in 1994. Unfortunately neither of their new venues lived up to their past, in my opinion.
Details to get out of the way: On both occasions, we had to pull strings to get reservations, and I dined with foodies who were in agreement with my findings.
Apparently restaurateur Danny Meyer inherited the nickname “Maialino” while he was eating his way through Rome one suckling little pig (the English translation of Maialino) at a time.
Located in the Gramercy Park Hotel, Maialino is a bright, breath of fresh air on the side of the dark and cavernous hotel lobby. After you pass the lovely authentic bar (that apparently serves some serious coffee in the morning), the space looks like a country kitchen lined with wood and accented with blue checked table cloths. I’d be happy to eat breakfast or lunch in this “traditional Roman trattoria,” but the decor didn’t seem sophisticated enough for the evening fare.
As I had read, the wine list was unique and even featured lovely vintages by the glass. Regarding the food, Sarah (my beautiful and beyond talented dinner date) said, “Although not my favorite rustic Italian offering in the city (which is Babbo), the menu holds its own and presents many solid dishes.” The key is to know which ones those are. The fried artichoke appetizer is a must and should be followed by one of their home-made pastas. A little piggy would be obvious the choice for an entree, but we chose the swordfish which was uninspired and bland.
After fully digesting my thoughts, I would say, that for those of us who follow the buzz of NYC’s latest to asses its greatness, Maialino is a well-rounded experience. However, it wouldn’t make my list of recommendations for Italian in New York.
Next Thursday I’ll be posting my experience with Tom and Colicchio And Sons.
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