Sundays in NYC always mean brunch to me which eventually lead to a long day of enjoyment that I like to call Sunday Funday. A little quirky? Yeah. Corny? Sure. Bordering a bit on childish? Kind of. Fun as sh*t? Absolutely. I had heard a lot about a Danny Meyer Italian restaurant called Maialino (Italian for Piglet) located in the Gramercy Park Hotel and so we decided to head down there for some brunch. The hotel itself is pretty elegant and I wasn't expecting the casual surprise of a place like Mailino. The space reminded me of the Tabard Inn and any place with a view of Gramercy Park is always a welcome place to eat.
We got there around 11:15 in the morning and one of our aims was to get drinks BUT...did anyone here know that you can't serve alcohol in NYC until noon? The waiter, who was very funny, pointed that out to us and since Maialino was in a hotel, they had to open early on Sundays but usually places don't open until 11:30 for bruncy in NYC. WTF? I had no clue which means that I've never ordered a drink during brunch in NYC (highly unlikely) or that I've never gone to brunch before noon (bingo). Ouch. Anyway, we took the menu, ordered some coffee and orange juice and waited.
For our first part of breakfast (you'll see what I mean later), we ordered more on the brunch side of their menu. For food, we ordered the Malfatti al Maialino and the Porchetta Sandwich. The Malfatti is torn sheets of pasta in ragu with arugula and pieces of suckling pig. The ragu had a wonderful acidity/tartness and the arugula had a natural bitterness that balanced off the sweetness of the suckling pig and the creaminess from the handmade pasta. The dish had the perfect sense of balance while bringing a great depth of flavor. I had been craving pasta all weekend after the tantalizing pappardelle at Ken & Cook and I was lucky enough to stumble on the Malfatti from Maialino in order to satisfy my craving.
The porchetta sandwich is a heaping of roasted pork from the belly and loin mixed with some more arugula on top of some thick crusty bread with a couple of fried eggs on top. So, where the malfatti was a really balanced dish, this dish took a rather different approach. And by different approach, I mean it punches you in the mouth with strong bold strokes. The bread comes off as extremely crusty, thick and really hard to bite into until you break the eggs and swirl up the yolk everywhere. The added moisture softens up the bread enough to give you a chewy consistency that was then mixed nicely with the pork and arugula. After slicing it up a bit, this gives you one rich bite after one rich bite of pork, egg, and bread. I don't know if the 'elevated' greasy egg and ham hangover sandwich is a thing but if it was, it would be the porchetta at Maialino.
At 11:45, we bugged our waiter sufficiently enough to take our drink order and started off with a couple of Negroni Sbagliato which had prosecco, campari and vermouth (I think). The bitterness of the campari almost forces you to sip this cocktail. I liked all the elements but the campari may have been too bitter for me as I found that all I wanted to do is finish mine so I could move on to the next drink. The only fortunate thing about the negroni is that it was an apertif and made us hungry all over again. We had spied some ricotta and blueberry pancakes earlier and ordered those along with two other drinks that were on the sweeter side. One was something like Light in the Square (but in Italian) which I didn't get to try and I got the Claudia, which had gin, elderflower liqueur, and a grapefruit & lime limonata. The Claudia was sweet, refreshing and reminded me of a stronger lemonade. It wasn't a game changing cocktail but it was better than the negroni.
The pancakes were probably the surprise of the meal. They didn't look like much and frankly looked slightly overcooked. They had a healthy heaping of ricotta and a blueberry spread on top of them with a side of maple syrup. I like blueberry, I'm mildly in love with sweet maple syrup and I would make a love child with ricotta if I could so I was expecting to really enjoy all those elements and considered the pancakes as an afterthought. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. The pancakes were the fluffiest yet crustiest set of cakes I've ever run into. The inside of the pancake was fluffy, light and didn't weigh you down. The exterior had a nice cook on them that produced some crunch. I could have eaten about 10 more while I did eat the accompanying toppings, I could have lived without them.
It was the first day of the NFL season so we had to leave to go meet up to watch the first set of games before my train back home. What was surprising is that we left well after the start of the first few games. In fact, we hung around for almost two hours and never noticed it. I don't know if it was the food, atmosphere, drinks, the great company or a little of all of above. I do know that Maialino really does provide a welcoming atmosphere with a amiable staff. The drinks weren't anything to get excited over but the food makes up for any shortfalls. The only advice I would give you is to arrive closer to the noon for brunch so you don't have to postpone Sunday Funday festivities for too long.
2 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10010, 212.777.241, www.maialinonyc.com