My first bite in 2014 was important. It was not only a crucial recovery from a night (and year) of overindulgences, but I required that it set the tone for many more meals to come in the new year. It was also my first brunch as a writer for Bitches Who Brunch, which meant I finally had a voice in the vast NYC food world, and that the camera I lovingly bring everywhere on my own free will now had real purpose at the brunch table. As such, I was extremely selective in deciding where we should go for New Year’s Day brunch.
Maialino immediately stuck out in my mind, as it is one of my favorite restaurants for dinner, is a few short hungover blocks from my Gramercy apartment, and is supposed to have an unbelievable brunch. Which is why my boyfriend and I, powering through one-too-many Moscow Mules from the night before and an epic sugar headache, were dressed to impress at an aggressively early time of 10:30 a.m. on New Years Day.
Location, location, location. Maialino is primely located inside the swanky Gramercy Hotel. When you’re next taking a stroll around Gramercy Park, peering inside the gates at the lucky ones with access keys, you may also find yourself jealously eyeing the Maialino diners who share the same view from their tables.
We were greeted with the same impeccable service we’ve received for dinner in the past. The hosts and servers are as warm and inviting as the ambiance, and make you feel like they’ve been waiting just for your arrival. You are lead past a long and beautiful bar, and then a smaller coffee and pastry bar, and finally, into the open dining room. The dining room is decorated with blue and white checker tablecloths accented with dark brown furniture, an abundance of light from the Park, and a collection of wine bottles in all shapes and sizes reminding you of its Italian roots.
We immediately ordered lattes, which were made at the coffee counter, a section of the restaurant open for passerbys who want to stop in for a sweet treat and a takeaway espresso. Equal parts foam and delicious, I was tempted to order a second. We complemented our caffeine with a Toffee Glazed Brioche Bun. Think first class Cinnabon. It was moist and light yet rich in flavor and tasted like it was fresh out of the oven, a rarity in restaurant pastries.
Inspired by my favorite pasta dish at Maialino, the Cacio e Pepe, we ordered the Cacio e Pepe soft scrambled eggs with Pecorino cheese and black pepper. How can I possibly describe how something so simple is so memorable? It was cooked and seasoned to perfection, rich with cheese, but light and fluffy enough to easily finish the dish..and order two others. If I had to pick only one dish to recommend to future brunchers, this would be it.
Next up was the ricotta pancakes, served with a pear compote and fresh ricotta on the side. I was initially hesitant to slather the ricotta all over the pancakes, but my unease was quickly put to rest when I had my first sample and discovered that it was far from cheesy, and instead added a special element to the dish. We were told the pancake batter is mixed with ricotta as well, which lent to an almost zesty flavor that worked well with the pear compote. It was less dense and much more fluffy than normal pancakes, which I appreciated, as I had one more dish to go.
The last brunch item we ordered was the porchetta sandwich, served with roasted pork and a fried egg and topped with fresh arugula in a crusty roll. The high-quality meat stole the show and added some welcome protein to our carb-heavy brunch, although I was so full by this point that I started to count to one hundred between bites. My boyfriend happily finished my portion of the sandwich, but we still had to bring half back for an afternoon snack.
All in, I can easily say this was the best brunch I’ve ever had. The service was impeccable, the lattes fueled the hours I wanted to camp out there because of the atmosphere, and the dishes were some of the most memorable I’ve tasted. I encourage every other restaurant dabbling in brunch in the new year to step up their game, as my bar is set pretty high for 2014.
The Bitches say A+. Maialino defines what incredible brunch means in New York City and offers the kind of food that you want to share with all of the special people in your life.
2 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY
(212) 777 – 2410
Maialino serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.