maialino opening night: from the three gleaming smiles you that meet you at the front door to the warm, super-attentive service, this place has danny meyer written all over it. he runs his restaurants like walt ran disney. his staff is culty but unfailingly professional and kind. the space is warm without seeming cramped. crisp without seeming sterile. ruth reichlat the next table. the wine recommendation (something soft and full-bodied from 45 minutes outside of rome) was perfect for the $46 price point in that it tasted more expensive than it was. we started with the prosciutto di parma (delicate and salty) and a spicy/unusually tender sopressata, accompanied by a basket with a variety of breads (a foccacia, cheddar sticks, a semolina). antipasti was the octopus, served in impossibly thin little slices with a sea salty purple potato salad and arugula. anna wintour enters: gets a table in back. the carbonara was perfect. actually, it could have used a tad more pepper but otherwise, it was probably the best i've had this side of the atlantic. (someone tell mario batali that his is always too salty.) dana cowin gets sat next to us and seems to smile apologetically at me every time someone else comes by to welcome her but i'm loving watching someone else get this much attention. danny meyer himself comes over, chats with her about how easy it was to open the place, he knew what he wanted so there wasn't too much to think about. it all came from the heart, not his head. he asked if they could tell that they were on the park. they said yes. (for the record: i disagree. the windows sit too high, the curtains even higher that, no, there's no way you have any idea you're on gramercy park, sorry danny.) a wide smile flashed at me and sharon, a quick inquiry as to how we were enjoying our meal and then off he went to eleven madison park (which, coincidentally, he says opened on this exact date 11 years ago...he said he hadn't planned on them having the same opening date but compared it to birthing, that you can't control when that baby wants to enter the world).
sidenote: YES, OMG, i couldn't help but eavesdrop on all this, soooo guilty as charged. i'm sorry, danny meyer is a god as far as these things are concerned. i can't ever thank him enough for bringing new york the only decent chicago dog that this city has (and oh, how i miss my vienna dogs...) and i worship eleven madison park. i think i've mentioned a hundred times how much i'd like to get married there but how it'll never happen unless i win myself some lottery. my solo lunches (the only meal there i can afford) there are blissful and i'm treated like i'm the most important person in the room which is nice for a diner alone, where i'm often passed over or just plain ignored because my check average isn't enough to motivate a server. meyer and his people have treated me right and i'm devoted, eternally, for it. the locanda verde folks are fantastic too, which is why i keep going back. i sometimes want to walk into restaurants that weren't happy to have me and be all pretty woman on their asses, "hey, remember me? big mistake. big. huge! i have to go eating now."
so ANYWAY, the veal arrives and it's just massive. at least two inches thick and the most flavorful veal i've ever had the pleasure of meeting. served with some pancetta and wilted kale, we made ourselves finish it even though we were both so full we thought we might be sick. i mean, until the dessert menu showed up. two glasses of moscato d'asti and a tartufo later, we drag ourselves out. i run into my friend alex on the way out and feel quite proud of myself because he's so cool and whatnot and i'm a huge nerd and we somehow managed to both score a table at the same place, on the same night. small victories. the girl at the coatcheck asked what we had and approved, nay, seemed downright jealous, of our meal so i think we chose well.