Mon-Thu, 7:30am-10:30am, noon-5pm, and 5:30pm-10:30pm; Fri, 7:30am-10:30am, noon-5pm, and 5:30pm-11pm; Sat, 10am-2pm and 5:30pm-11pm; Sun, 10am-2pm and 5:30pm-10:30pm
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6 at 23rd St.
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Maialino is the name of this Danny Meyer restaurant, and although it’s advertised as a Roman trattoria (the name means “Little Pig”), you know you’re in Danny Land almost before you walk through the door. “Would you like a spoon with your tripe?” asked my waitress, who had a dazzling smile and looked less like an Italian offal aficionado than like an actress in a nineties sitcom. The long, angular space, off the lobby of the Gramercy Park Hotel, used to house a darkened, oppressively swanky Chinese joint, but Meyer has thrown the big bay windows open to the park (on which he lives) and imbued the space with his signature airbrushed charm. The bar area is fitted with a jumble of rusticated wooden tables and a menu filled with inviting finger foods like lardo-topped bruschetta, and a pizza “bianca” dusted with smoked pancetta. There is a bread station in the middle of the room, along with a salumi station where ribbons of “salame Toscana” are cut with loving care. In the back, the tables of the trattoria are set with blue-check tablecloths, like at a proper church picnic.
Meyer is a genius at empowering chefs to greatness within the parameters of his particular vision, and the cook he’s chosen to run his high-concept trattoria is Nick Anderer, who worked at Babbo during its heyday and, most recently, under Michael Anthony at Gramercy Tavern. Anderer is from Manhattan, not Lazio, but he has a ventriloquist’s knack for soaking up the spare, earthy vocabulary of casual Roman restaurant cooking and reproducing it, more or less exactly, on the plate. At least that was my impression as I spooned in bites of properly funky “trippa alla Trasteverina,” which the kitchen cuts in soft, fettuccine-size strips and garnishes with Pecorino and sprigs of mint. There’s pig’s trotter on the antipasti menu, which I thought bordered on the rubbery but which a Roman construction worker might enjoy. And there are faithful renditions of aged classics like frizzled artichoke hearts (with bowls of anchovy-spiked sauce), salty fried sweetbreads and cauliflower on butcher paper (“frittura Romana”), and a wispy, egg-filled bowl of stracciatella, which tastes like some ethereal Mediterranean version of egg-drop soup.
Romans don’t tend to smother their pastas in rich tomato and meat-based ragùs like their countrymen often do. They fold them with eggs or Pecorino and spice them with blizzards of crushed pepper and bits of smoked pork, and that’s what Anderer does here, to an almost fanatic degree. The eight pastas on the menu include an oversweet, slightly clunky version of the great Roman classic spaghetti carbonara, delicious tangles of gizzard-shaped tonnarelli folded with creamy Pecorino and black pepper (“cacio e pepe”), and chewy platters of paccheri pasta cut like sections of a bicycle inner tube, and tossed “alla Gricia,” with black pepper, more Pecorino, and crunchy bits of guanciale, that great central-Italian smoked-pork-jowl delicacy. Guanciale also figures prominently in the bucatini all’Amatriciana, which is beautifully balanced between spicy tomato brightness and oily richness. And if you’re in the mood for even more pork, order the “malfatti al Maialino,” made with a bed of eggy, hand-torn malfatti pasta and covered in a cream-based suckling-pig ragù.Featured In
Bucatini all’Amatriciana, oxtails, veal T-bone or braised lamb with onions, sformato di ricotta.
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