Ten days ago, Danny Meyer opened Maialino in the Gramercy Park Hotel. In May, Andrew Carmellini opened Locanda Verde in the Greenwich Hotel. Maialino is a Roman-style trattoria. Locanda Verde is refined Italian-American and traditional and broadly Italian. Both restaurants offer ingredient driven menus in unpretentious and lively settings with service that is smart, well-informed, and attentive.
Having dined on Friday night at Locanda Verde and at Maialino on Saturday night, here’s a report of observations. It’s not a review, I am not a restaurant reviewer. (More on that in a minute.)
The kitchen at Locanda Verde excels. Lamb sliders were playful and savory. The pasta with fresh porcini shook the palate with every bite. It was cooked with more butter than olive oil, and as a result the mushrooms took center stage. And the texture of halibut slow cooked in olive oil!
Eating at Maialino is like being in Testaccio in Rome: Very authentic, very brightly lit, and lots of fun. An appetizer of a pig’s foot on the bone was really terrific. A pasta dish, sans tomato sauce, with pecorino, guanciale, and black pepper was delicious. Boned sea bass: subtle and deeply flavorful.
Of note is the fact that the tabs at both restaurants were nearly identical: $161 and $164, respectively, for two. You can dine for much less at both if you do not order pricey wines ($60 [LV] and $64 [M]).
These restaurants signal a future in dining: Dining with value in lively settings where food is a fundamental part of the evening but not the night’s sole entertainment. Both are neighborhood spots where, as in Italy, the food is meant to create and buttress conviviality. It’s not a new concept in dining, per se–the neighborhood haunt–but the value in prices and the refinement of familiar dishes are noteworthy. Carmellini’s, “My grandmother’s ravioli,” and Maialino’s pastas are examples. In a city that has long had a love affair with Italian food, these two new additions fit in well with places like Lupa and Esca as well as adding something of their own.