After this dining experience, I would recommend Maialino to anyone asking for suggestions in NYC. It exuded a welcoming café-like energy in an up-scale environment. The staff were all attentive and knowledgeable and the food spoke for itself with bold Italian flavors leaving a lasting impression.
Right from the get-go, the breadbasket, a mixture of focaccia and a rustic loaf, was a fantastic introduction to the meal. Both breads still had a lingering, gummy moistness that only lasts for so long out of the oven. But beyond that, I was tempted to lap up the table oil like a dog, and without restraint, generously sprinkled each bite with FLAKEY sea salt like a woman unphased by the threat of high blood pressure. If flakey sea salt could be considered a food on its own, it would easily rank in my top three.
I started off our ordering by making the executive decision to request the fire roasted shishito peppers, a dish that tends to be a universal crowd-pleasure. Both of my parents had never tried them before, so I was taking a risk, but they both seemed pleased. In fact, my mom was deeply fascinated by what she referred to as the delicious sauce (it was just olive oil and salt) which I found quite humorous.
When it came to our orders, my dad chose the Bucatini all’Amatriciana, my mom played it safe with her favorite pasta dish, Fettuccine alla Bolognese, and I went for a Roman classic, Spaghetti alla Carbonara. In addition to the pastas, I also ordered the Pollo alla Diavola – a half chicken, black pepper & pickled chilia – worried that portion sizes might be on the lighter side. In any case, portion sizes were not a problem. My dad’s dish brought some heat with a welcomed spicy tomato sauce whereas mine contained pieces of Guanciale that were magically crisp on the outside with an explosion of concentrated pork flavor trapped within without the trace of fattiness you would expect. As hard as it is to admit, my mom did order the best dish. The bolognese was the perfect balance of salty and sweet and imparted a texture that complimented the al dente finish of the fettuccine. The chicken, on the other hand, was an example of how memorable flavor can still stem from minimalism and restraint. Only accompanied by a sauce made from picked chilia’s and chicken drippings, the dish offered beautifully browned skin and white meat perfect for lapping up the saucy remains.
All in all, the meal ended up costing us around $140 including tax, an absolute steal for the service and food we received. But for all of you wine drinkers out there, no, this did not include alcohol. My parents and I are still on team, “let’s get another appetizer rather than a single glass of wine.”