Restaurant of the Week: Maialino

Julie Besonen
Ah, lunch. That meal when I shouldn't be drinking wine. But what better place to play hooky than Danny Meyer's new Roman trattoria, Maialino? Dinner requires planning a month ahead and taking a 5:30 reservation (according to Open Table, that's about all that's available). Um, no. The restaurant started serving lunch last month and it's a relaxing, uncrowded time to go, with sunshine splashing through the broad windows and onto the blue-and-white-checked tablecloths. Even though my party was incomplete, I was immediately seated and got going on a $10 quartino of Frascati, Rome's signature white wine, which is light, fruity, and perfect for lunch. In your average Roman trattoria it's roughly $10 for a carafe but we're in New York, in the Gramercy Park Hotel no less, and I count 17 bottles on the all-Italian list for under $40. Nice. Why aren't more restaurateurs offering affordable wines like this? Food prices are pretty decent, too. Executive chef Nick Anderer has mastered classic Roman dishes like fried artichokes ($9), golden-brown, crisp and touched with anchovy, and tonnarelli cacio e pepe ($14), a satisfying bowl of spaghetti-like pasta tangled up with lots of sharp Pecorino cheese and black pepper. The porchetta sandwich on crusty ciabatta -- savory, slow-roasted sliced pork edged with fat -- is $12 and enough to split, especially if you're moving on to a lovely, super-fresh and simple sea bass topped with a citrusy mizuna salad ($21). The fish is so light it won't make you sleepy if you're going back to work, and a bracing dessert of affogato, creamy gelato doused with hot espresso, is an effective waker-upper.

Maialino Gramercy Park Hotel,
2 Lexington Ave., (212) 777-2410
www.maialinonyc.com

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