NYC: Maialino and Eataly – Reunited with Great Friends (and great food)

Mark Zuckerberg deserves to be Time Magazine‘s Person of the Year. He successfully reunited me with my three best friends from freshman year of college.  And that’s something that no one else has been able to do.

I may be one of the few people to have left University of Maryland in College Park with a New York accent.  Most of my college friends were from New York, and they were determined to beat the Virginia out of me.  It worked.  So once my friends and I found each other on Facebook, we immediately planned a get together.  It was only natural that our UMD reunion take place in NYC.

Obviously the trip would include some opportunities for dining.  Twenty-eight hours in New York equals five meals.  The fact that I was going to be in the city with locals took some of the usual pressure off of me having to make all of the dining decisions.  I didn’t mind as long as I had the right of refusal.

I arrived hours before my reunion so that I could have a little time to explore on my own.  My destination was never in question.  I wanted to visit Mario Batali’s new food emporium, Eataly, which is described as the the largest artisanal Italian food and wine marketplace in the world.

I arrived in time for a late lunch.  There are a variety of separate eateries featuring fish, sandwiches, pizza, meats, and much more.  I decided to try La Pizza & La Pasta with a wide selection of Neapolitan-style pizzas. Dining alone gave me an advantage, as I was moved ahead of other groups and immediately seated at the counter where I had a perfect view of the food preparations. The server encouraged me to order a pizza with a spicy salami and fresh mozzarella cheese.  He warned me that the pizza would quickly turn soggy due to the freshness of the ingredients.  I am always in search of crispy pizza and rarely find it, so I hesitated but went ahead with the order.  

The pizza, as promised, was delicious but it did turn soggy in the center within seconds.  In this case the great flavor more than made up for the texture.  Still I fondly remembered the crisp pizza I had at Batali’s Otto Enoteca Pizzeria, perhaps the best I ever had.

I wasn’t ready to leave Eataly without sampling something else, so I headed to the gelateria and ordered a pear gelato.  This time the texture won out over the flavor.  It was nice and creamy but I wished the gelato had a more pronounced pear flavor.  I’ve had better gelato in DC.  Take that, New York.

Photo: Roxanne Behr/New York Magazine

I still wasn’t done with Eataly.  After wandering around the area for a couple of hours, I circled back to Eataly for a Lavazza cappucino, which was excellent.

I would definitely go back to Eataly as there’s so much more sampling to be done, and I wished I had purchased a few delicacies to bring home.  Next time.  I am not done with Eataly.

My reunion began in the rooftop bar of the Gramercy Park Hotel.  It was definitely surreal to be with three friends who I hadn’t been with in more than 30 years.  The voices, inflections, and mannerisms were immediately familiar, even if some of the stories were fuzzy.  “Remember the time so and so….” Um, not so much.  The prices of drinks had definitely changed since college.  Seventy dollars for four drinks seemed a little pricey.

Dinner was at Maialino, also in the Gramercy Park Hotel. Maialino is a “Roman-style trattoria from award winning Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group. It serves lovingly prepared Roman-style cooking from Executive Chef Nick Anderer.”

To be honest, I didn’t focus on the details of the meal and I didn’t take notes as I normally do.  I was a little preoccupied with catching up on the last 30+ years.  Plus, it was a little dark for photos. But here’s a brief review.

I started with the Frittura vegetale, which is a dish featuring battered beets and cauliflower.  It was a nice dish with an inviting presentation.  My only complaint is that I wished it had a sauce. It was a little dry.

Each of us ordered a pasta dish as an entree.  I had Agnolotti di Zucca, which is pumpkin, balsamic & ricotta salata.  I can tell you that I couldn’t stop eating my pasta, despite all there was to distract me.  Each of the four entrees delivered to our table was met with squeals of approval.

this is what happens when my husband isn’t with me to take photos

Dessert was Torta Sbrisolona, an almond and apple crumb cake and caramel gelato.  At this point of the evening, given that I’d had a few drinks, the dessert would have to be pretty outstanding for me to remember it.  I don’t, so I’m going with it being good, but not great.


If I lived in New York City I am guessing I would visit Maialino again.. Since I don’t, I can say that I’m glad to have had a meal there but I’m not compelled to go back, given the dozens of other restaurants that I’m anxious to try.

The eating did not stop at Maialino, but I won’t go into great detail.  Briefly, we had a decent breakfast at Tick Tock Diner, followed by an excellent lunch at Aquagrill in Soho.  I can’t say enough about the grilled Atlantic salmon with falafel crust, cucumbers, tomatoes and lemon coriander vinaigrette.  In fact, this may have been my most favorite dish of the trip. If you’re in the neighborhood, it’s well worth a visit.

I also stopped at Balthazar for a tuna sandwich and some goodies to take home with me on the Vamoose ride home. My advice: never miss an opportunity to take home baked goods from New York.

For me, dining in New York City is about as good as it gets. Imagine my pure joy at dining there with old friends and realizing that sometimes you can go back to the seventies.  Sometimes you can even move forward, feeling like you’ve never been apart. Thanks Mark Zuckerberg, for the opportunity!

Eataly, 200 Fifth Ave., nr. 23rd St
New York Magazine review of Eataly

Maialino 2 Lexington Avenue, NY
My rating (on a 1-5 scale):   4.3
Zagat rating:  25

New York Magazine review of Maialino

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