Thursday, January 28, 2010
Today I had lunch with my friend Robin. We went to Maialino in the Gramercy Hotel. We entered the hotel entrance and to our left was a friendly couple who greeted us. The place was bustling. We got there towards the end of their lunch service and all the tables were full of animated folk. We were hungry and eager to be seated. Robin waited patiently as the staff readied our table. I checked out the bathroom. I noodled my way through the hotel corridor, which had a fantastic scent from a burning candle, and finally found the water closet. There were two rooms labeled with the universal symbol of man, woman in a skirt and wheelchair. Each room was clean, individual and outfitted with a sink, which I like very much.
We were then seated in the dining room. We walked past an attractive bar facing Gramercy Park. The afternoon light streamed beautifully into the room, so much so that the handsome blinds were drawn half way. We then passed a well appointed coffee bar outfitted with hefty chunk marble, coffee press pots and compelling pastries. To our right was a large red meat slicer actively shaving prosciutto as we passed. We then strode by some occupied banquettes that I want to sit in next time I come. The walls were covered part of the way in walnut paneling and part of the way in artistic pieces of various prints with prose, drawings and photographs. The comfortable chairs were walnut and leather. The tables were covered in white, heavy gauged restaurant cloth over large blue and white gingham. You could see wrought iron pedestals under some of tables. When we sat down we were greeted by a pleasant and professional staff.
Robin had ice tea that was habitually refilled, how wonderful! My first bite was a bold green olive bread that started our animated conversation about the magnificent bread of Rome. We then chose smoked swordfish served with bracing pickled red onions and thinly sliced caper berries also accompanied by baby arugula. My idea of a wonderfully harmonic and well conceived plate. This showed such intelligence. Not only did it possess delicious flavor and texture, it was beautiful and straight forward in its presentation. It consisted of dense, slightly briny beautiful thick ribbons of swordfish, with a curly bunch of deep greens to munch, and a lovely mound of slightly salty,sweet pink onions punctuated by jalapeno-like caper berry slices. What fun! Then we shared some terrific battered chunks of cod served with the same greens dotted with thinly sliced fresh artichokes and marinated hearts. The whole event was peppered with scintillating conversation. We enjoyed a side of heirloom beans with escarole. The swordfish was the star until we were graciously offered, on the house, some gorgeous pistachio gelato, the best I have ever had anywhere, except my own; and some refreshing grapefruit sorbeto. They were topped with a dark chocolate hazelnut biscotti and a fennel semolina one. Oh my!
The excellent lunch was completed with a superb cappuccino!
Written by Karen Pickus, drawings and photos by Karen Pickus 2010
Courtesy of Karen Pickus 2010