Internet masses, this is Maialino. Maialino, meet the crowd. For the last six months, The Rockwell Group, Danny Meyer's elite power players at Union Square Hospitality Group, and their various minions have been quietly and furiously at work at the Gramercy Park Hotel, transforming the dark, gauzy Wakiya into the rustic Roman trattoria seen above. It's Sir Meyer's first upscale project since the opening of the Modern, and therefore, this puppy has to perform on all cylinders. Everyone will know more about how she does with the crowds after the public opening—next week or the week after—but first, let's take a sneak peek around.
Bar Maialino: The restaurant is divided into two main spaces, the casual bar room called Bar Maialino and the dining room called the Trattoria. The 55-seat front bar room will serve a separate menu of small plates, snacks, sandwiches, pastries, and the like. Food designed to be consumed with wine, which, by the way, is kept in a glass walk-in cellar right near the entrance. Served lunch and dinner: a porchetta sandwich that chef Nick Anderer is very excited about (it's either the sandwich or the prospect of breaking down a whole pig). Bar Maialino will eventually be open all day. Note that spectacular floor.
Trattoria: The 72-seat Trattoria is the more formal area, serving a full menu of rustic Roman classics and various specials inspired by the Union Square Greenmarket. Expect a great deal of pastas, freshly made for the delicate sauces and dry for the thick, hearty sauces, and desserts that are Roman-inspired but still influenced by New York's tastes and seasons. The menu is pretty much set, but Anderer says that until he sees every dish lined up on the pass and realizes where the holes are, he won't be fully ready.
Here, diners will find tablecloths, but short ones, in the hopes that they'll get the subtle hint that this is nice but not too formal.
"Cucina" & PDR: The spaces are separated by the Cucina (working name), a small walkway with a pastry, coffee, and bread station to the left and a salumi station to the right. It is one of the aspects the Rockwell designer onsite was most excited about and something that seems like it will look genuinely cool once they pull it all off. Finally, in the very back, a carpeted private dining room sits 22 around a ginormous banquet table.
Notes: The space is 90 percent done, but those empty walls will be covered in a slew of paintings, photographs, and collages, most of which were handpicked by Mr. Meyer himself. Almost all of the wood has been reclaimed from old barns in New Jersey. The beams on the ceiling come from a log cabin. Oh, and a vital detail note: the windows that were baffingly covered up by Wakiya will be fully utilized, with Gramercy Park views.
And the scene today? The USHG and Rockwell teams worked on the details, construction crews on the remaining plastering and sawing, while Anderer and his dozen chefs practiced dishes (a pollo diavola needed a sauce tweak, a pastry chef considered elongating her chewy almond cookies). The meat slicer got a trial run, and by 1 p.m. the dining room filled for family meal. If all goes smoothly, the general public will be in those seats next week.
· Sneak Peaking Maialino [~ENY~]
· All Maialino Coverage [~ENY~]