Brunch at Maialino
Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 11:00AM
The Lady Who Lunches in Restaurant reviews

Aside from spending a couple of late nights at The Rose Bar, I technically have not been to The Gramercy Park Hotel since the fall of 2007...until now. 

The space that Maialino currently occupies used to house the very short-lived "fine-dining" Chinese restaurant, Wakiya.  Though the food (at Wakiya) fell below my mediocre expectations, I found Wakiya's grand interior decor remnant of the fancy Chinese restaurants I had seen on television: ornate black lacquer furniture, dim lighting, and color splashes of gold and red.  After its demise, rumors began to swirl that his majesty, Gramercy Park's own Danny Meyer, was in talks to open a Roman-style trattoria in Wakiya's former space.  And after seven months of gestation, Maialino was born on November 11, 2009. 

When I arrived at Maialino ten-minutes early for our 12:30pm reservation, I was positively flabbergasted by the space's radical transformation from an upscale Chinese restaurant to a rustic-looking Roman trattoria.  Reclaimed oak wainscoting (from a poet's barn in NJ), wooden beams, warmly-painted tiles and exposed windows replaced Wakiya's dim overhead lighting, shiny black lacquer furniture, and plush red carpeting. 

Before (Wakiya: photo taken from "Time Out NY")

After (Maialino)After the four of us were seated (close to 1pm) at a cozy booth, we immediately ordered a round of coffees to sip as we perused Maialino's brunch offerings.  In an effort to sooth my sweet tooth, I chose the Ricotta Pancakes for my entree.  Shortly after we placed our food order, the restaurant's manager approached our table and informed us that "the kitchen is slightly backed up, so because you will have to wait a bit longer than normal, I'd like to send you some pastries, on the house."  The four of us looked at each other and smiled before warmly accepting the manager's kind offer.  *Bonus points to Maialino for excellent communication skills and generosity.*

Within minutes, a basket filled with homemade olive-oil muffins arrived at our table.  The buttery exterior, slightly crunchy on top, gave way to a moist, dense cake with an ever-so-slight essence of olive oil. 

Maialino's olive-oil muffinRoughly thirty-minutes after receiving our basket of gratis muffins, our entrees arrived.  Three 4'x4' fluffy pancakes were unevenly stacked on top of one another and finished with a generous dollop of lukewarm ricotta cheese.  After moving 3/4 of the ricotta away with my fork and dousing the 'cakes with syrup, I took my first bite.  Compared to generic flap-jacks, I found this version (made with ricotta) to be much creamier, richer and porous (which is great for syrup-fiends like me!). 

Maialino's Ricotta Pancakes...post syrup-drench and first biteThough brunch lasted longer than I had expected (and budgeted time in my busy day for), I was pleased with my meal and the customer service we received.  While I won't be rushing back for brunch, I am hoping to return to Maialino for dinner in the very near future. 

Article originally appeared on The Lunch Belle (http://www.thelunchbelle.com/).
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