This November, newly minted four-starer Danny Meyer is set to open Roman trattoria Maialino in the old Wakiya space. It's a particularly personal project for Meyer, who once worked as a tour guide in Rome for his father's travel company and whose nickname there was a play on what is now the restaurant's name. (Check out the quaint backstory.)
At the helm is Gramercy Tavern vet Nick Anderer, busting out a resume that name-checks some big-time toques: He earned his stripes working with Mario Batali at Babbo and Larry Forgione at An American Place. He and Meyer hope to bring a "very seasonal" and "pasta-driven" focus to Maialino, he says. Translation: Good luck getting a table! Anderer gives us a heads up on what's in the works.
There's a lot of buzz surrounding this project…
I thought it was too good to be true because [Danny and I] have this shared love affair for Rome, which I was never fully aware of until he asked me to step into his office and talk about it. Out of purely coincidence, we had done the same art-history program in Rome. This was as college students at Trinity College—we both did it for our junior year. So it sort of took me back, the feelings that I had as a student in Rome, walking around the city and just being struck by everything from the architecture to the food. It sort of came full circle, and I jumped right on it.
It's Danny's first Italian restaurant, which a lot of people are excited about.
I think that all along it's been something that's very close to his heart, and it's something that never really escaped him. In all of the things that we've done, in all of the restaurants, there's something similar to an Italian sensibility in the way his chefs cook and the way they think about ingredients and food. It's all about a time and a place and a season. And that's something that is really prominent in Italian cooking—it's all about regional food, food for the neighborhood and soulful cooking that showcases seasonal ingredients. So I don't think it's a far jump for him.
How are you approaching the menu?
The specific focus is Rome, and the feelings that we get when we travel through Rome. And Danny and I recently shared a trip to Rome where we got to eat around and walk the streets and feel the vibe of the city. We were there about a month ago.
How are you translating that experience onto the menu?
It's gonna have some of the Roman canonical dishes, for sure. We just want to do our best at representing those dishes as faithfully as possible. And the way we put our own spin on it is through sourcing, and just showing how much those ingredients mean to us. And that's gonna be the challenge of [Maialino]: to be able to put up honest food without very much to hide behind and execute it to best of our abilities, and be honest with the ingredients we're using.
It's gonna be a very seasonal restaurant, it's gonna be heavily pasta-driven. We're gonna make a fair amount of pastas in-house. The rest of the menu is gonna follow the structure of a Roman trattoria—antipasti, primi, secondi, contorni. We'll have a nice selection of salumi and cheeses. So in that sense, it follows the format of a Roman trattoria.
Photo courtesy of Union Square Hospitality Group