In New York, all you have to say is, â€˜It’s a Danny Meyer restaurantâ€™ and the lines will start. Even if you aren’t from New York, odds are good that you’ve heard of some of them, like Union Square CafÃ©, Gramercy Tavern, Shake Shack, or The Modern.
His latest is what we’d call â€˜comfortable fine dining.â€™ In other words, you don’t have to feel intimidated if your etiquette is shaky, and you don’t have to understand everything on the menu. In our experience, the wait staff is knowledgeable and ready to walk you through it all.
The menu is actually divided into courses. So, Salumi is the appetizer course, and Formaggi is the cheese course to enjoy at the end.
If, that is, you are a traditional Italian. If not, have your cheese course firstâ€”they really don’t care.
What they want is for you to enjoy yourself. In that spirit, be sure to try something unusual on the menu. Much of it is shareable, and comes with beautiful loaves of bread and a nice buzz of conversation throughout the various dining areas.
We had the Crostini di Piselli e Fave, which is peas, fava beans and ricotta . . . and delicious. We had the Carciofini Fritti, which is fried artichokes with a great anchovy dipping sauce.
We loved the Raviolo al Uovo (that means egg), and the Spigola (sea bass, with pancetta and asparagus), and the Costolette allo Scottadito (lamb chops), and the Pesce Spada (swordfish), and the Patate al Forno (roasted potatoes) and the Cavolfiori Strascinati (cauliflower).
The Fettuccine in Vignarola, with artichokes and mint, was memorable, as was the Spaghetti alle Vongole (clams in a white wine and garlic sauce); it all was. Our party handed bites around and shared, in a great mix of pleasure in each others’ company and delight in the special tastes.
We ended the meal with Affogato, a wonderfully decadent mixture of hot espresso and gelato that only gets better the longer you let the gelato melt into the coffee. If, that is, you can wait that long.
Nick Anderer is the Executive Chef, and the menu is written with enough flexibility to allow for price adjustments and specials to be added to each categoryâ€”in fact, parts of it are hand lettered. Like other restaurants within the Union Square Hospitality Group stable, fresh, locally sourced produce is used as much as possible so that type of flexibility is essential, and welcomed.
Maialino is said to be a tribute to Meyer’s experiences during a tour of Italy when he was a young man.
In that case, the restaurant is the best scrapbook I’ve ever seen.