This Little Piggy: Maialino

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Ellen Silverman

Pigging out Chef Nick Anderer serves up comfort food like Malfatti al Maialino

New York uber-restaurateur Danny Meyer fancies his new trattoria, Maialino, as a cozy, neighborhood kind of joint. But the neighborhood happens to be Gramercy Park — one of Gotham's poshest quarters since the time of Edith Wharton. Thus Maialino (Italian for "little pig") is anything but basic. In fact, its David Rockwell-designed premises are A-list territory, packed with celebrities, bankers and gourmands, drawn as much by Maialino's location in Ian Schrager's fashionable Gramercy Park Hotel as by chef Nick Anderer's serious comfort food.

The pseudorustic bar area out front offers ample bruschetta, panini and fritti — along with some two dozen Italian wines poured (less than generously) by the glass. There's an open-air bread station at one end, a cheese and meat stand at the other, both lorded over by skillful, white-suited staff. But the main action takes place in the rear dining room where the restaurant's namesake pork is the draw. From Parma-fresh prosciutto to salami and rich mortadella from Tuscany, the salumi platters are heavy with sliced swine. So are the pasta dishes. Malfatti al Maialino comprises thick pasta ribbons doused with cream, spiked with arugula and studded with chunks of buttery suckling pig thigh. Paccheri (pasta tubes) are tossed with black pepper and bits of guanciale, or cured pork jowl. And then comes the house speciality — Maialino al Forno, an entire suckling pig plated amid its own pepper-dusted crackling.

Deserts are almost (almost!) an afterthought after such heavy fare. But to miss out on fig-sweetened sformato (a ricotta-rich custard) or the affogato (espresso-topped gelato) would be a shame. And besides, this is the kind of environment in which you're positively encouraged to make a little pig of yourself.

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