Danny Meyer has been at the restaurant game long enough to create a successful restaurant in his sleep.
His first major opening since The Modern ticks all the boxes for New Yorkers at the moment: Italian, casual, a good wine and cheese offering, smart service and a point of special interest – American charcuterie.
The restaurant has been designed as a Roman trattoria, implausibly transplanted into the unlikely surroundings of Ian Schrager’s Gramercy Park hotel.
It has a restaurant at one end and a walk-in bar at the other – recommended, as reservations for the trat are currently hard to get.
In between are a faux-rustic salumi and cheese counter and a ‘bakery’ from which are served one of the highlights of the menu, the panella all Gricia (pecorino and guanciale (bacon) rolls. Order several.
I ate at the bar. It follows the fashionable small plates formula with a few braises and grills. Intriguingly there were a number of American salumi including Prosciutto from Iowa, Finocchiona from San Francisco, Salame Rosa from Berkeley and (my favourite) Soppressata Piccante from Long Island.
They’re not up to Italian standards yet, but like America’s artisanal cheeses, a promising work in progress.
Don’t on any account miss the stellar carciofini fritti (fried baby artichokes with anchovy bread sauce) and lovely old-fashioned lasagna verde if it’s on that day.
There are some more substantial daily specials (my neighbour was tucking into a vast veal chop) though if you want a choice of mains, including the signature maialino al forno (roast sucking pig) you’d be better advised to hang on for a booking at the trattoria.
A significant part of the all-Italian winelist is available by the glass – though given the restaurant’s provenance it’s not clever to be serving less-than-fresh Frascati (exchanged without question but the second bottle wasn’t a great improvement.)
A well-balanced 2007 Querciabella Chianti Classico made up for it.
A useful central location for those evenings when you feel like eating light but drinking well. The music (loud, middle-of-the road pop) could be improved.
Maialino, Gramercy Park Hotel, 2 Lexington Avenue, NY10010.
Reservations: 212 777 2410
What to eat: Charcuterie, fried artichokes, panino di Porchetta
What to drink: Chianti or Barolo by the glass
Who to take: Good place for a family outing or to hang out with a crowd. (The bar resembles a scene from Friends)
The damage: Could get away with $20 if you just go in for a glass and a plate. At least 4 times that if you order a main course and a good bottle but the pricing is fair for New York.
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Written by Fiona Beckett in New York