On Oct. 18, Danny Meyer and his Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG) revived their Roman-Italian restaurant, Maialino, at the Redbury Hotel in New York, adding another new hot spot to Manhattan’s NoMad neighborhood. USHG closed Maialino’s original Gramercy Park Hotel location—a Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winner—in 2020 at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic (though it retained its sister location in Washington., D.C., Maialino Mare, which holds a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence).
“That’s right folks, after over two years, we’re finally ready to bring back a taste of your favorites this fall,” Meyer wrote in an Instagram post. USHG has close ties to the Redbury Hotel, where it operates a pizzeria, Arta. It also previously oversaw eateries Caffe Marchio and Vini e Fritti, whose former locations house the new Maialino.
Known as Maialino (vicino)— vicino being Italian for “nearby”—the restaurant offers the trattoria-style cuisine that fans enjoyed several years ago. “We’re incredibly excited to recreate that special Maialino magic just a few blocks away from the original,” said Meyer in a statement. “Walking through the doors at Maialino (vicino), our guests will immediately recognize that spark—even before enjoying their favorite Maialino dishes.”
Maialino (vicino) executive chef Joe Downey-Zayas—who was chef de cuisine at the original location and, more recently, at USHG’s Best of Award of Excellence–winning Union Square Café—is preparing dishes such as burrata with roasted honeynut squash, tonnarelli cacio e pepe, chile-seasoned chicken diavola and the restaurant’s signature oven-roasted suckling pig, served with rosemary potatoes.
Beverage director Cory Holt and USHG manager of bar openings Patrick Smith have put together a new cocktail selection for the reopening, along with a growing, 600-label wine list focused primarily on Italy. “The goal is not to build out the 1,600 selections we had at our Gramercy Park location, but to still have a comprehensive selection of all of Italy and Champagne,” Holt told Wine Spectator via email.
As at the original location, the list will feature plenty of benchmark bottles, but there will be more emphasis on smaller, grower-led producers and “forward-thinking” winemakers. It will also play up lesser-known regions and varieties that offer value for diners. "We want wine to be fun, effortless and accessible to everyone, while still using our expertise to make sure we're serving the right bottle for the right occasion,” Holt explained.
With more than 40 seats, the dining room offers a welcoming atmosphere akin to a Roman trattoria, with marble bartops, terrazzo floors and black-and-white photographs on the walls. Walk-in guests can enjoy Maialino (vicino)’s wines and small plates at the attached, 30-seat wine bar next door.
“[I] have a soft spot for bars and for working in smaller restaurants,” said Holt. “That’s exactly what this new iteration of Maialino is all about. We're a small and intimate space, but with the same personality of the original. In many ways, it's the best of both worlds."
This was one of the last projects Meyer oversaw as USHG CEO. As of Sept. 6, he has stepped down, with Chip Wade, formerly president and COO, taking over that position. Meyer will remain on the group’s team as executive chairman and in consulting roles to help with new projects.—C.D.
Nice Matin Team Opens Monterey in New York
As of Oct. 6, Midtown Manhattan has a new brasserie, Monterey, from restaurateur Simon Oren and the celebrated hospitality team behind Grand Award winner Nice Matin, Best of Award of Excellence winner Barbounia and Award of Excellence winners Dagon, Isabelle’s Osteria, Marseille and Nizza. Like its sibling locations, Monterey offers an impressive beverage program directed by wine industry leader Aviram Turgeman.
The team is bringing back an “old school” approach to New York dining “with a new and polished uniform,” Turgeman told Wine Spectator via email. He has assembled a list of more than 200 wine labels from across the globe, organized by style. “I plan to have 400 by the end of the year by supplementing back vintages from recently acquired cellars,” he added. The main focuses are leading wineries in California (fitting, considering the restaurant’s namesake) and France, particularly Champagne, with more from Oregon, New York, Italy, Germany, Austria, Spain and beyond. From Napa Valley’s Beaulieu Vineyard to Australia’s Penfolds, leading names abound. “I keep my loyalty to vignerons I’ve been working with over the years, alongside emerging stars,” Turgeman explained. The list also features a section dedicated to limited-availability wines from Sonoma star Williams Selyem, with horizontal and vertical depth going back to the 2005 vintage.
Cocktail lovers will find a creative selection of drinks and will even be able to design their own gin cocktails, working with the professional manning Monterey’s martini cart.
For the brasserie-style menu, chef-partner James Tracey brings his years of experience at noteworthy restaurants like Isabelle’s Osteria, mingling European (particularly Mediterranean) and American culinary influences. The results are dishes like pork trotter with sweetbreads, crispy lobster with avocado puree and steamed black bass with charred shallots, as well as osetra caviar, top-notch steaks and a raw bar. Carts specializing in prime rib au jus and bananas Foster (flambéed tableside) bring even more variety and, of course, entertainment.
Dudi Sasson, one of Oren’s chief collaborators and a Monterey partner, and designer Scott Kester designed the restaurant with terrazzo tile floors, blue banquettes, a marble bartop and an open kitchen. A balcony area offers a more intimate dining experience, with a 12-seat table for celebrations, and there is also a spirits-focused, speakeasy-like space.
“I thought to myself, we can turn this into the 2022 version of Old Glam Hollywood,” said Sasson, describing his first impressions of the restaurant space. “I envisioned the retro days of Palm Springs and Frank Sinatra vibes. I wanted this to be an homage to that lavish era.”—C.D.
Marisi Opens in La Jolla, Calif.
Eating out in La Jolla, an upscale beach neighborhood north of San Diego, offers everything from al fresco taco stands to fine dining above the scenic coastline. In recent years, the oceanside enclave has evolved into an elevated and innovative food town. Case in point, chef Chad Huff, formerly of Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence winner Providence in Hollywood, migrated south to debut Italian restaurant Marisi on Aug. 31, teaming with bar and spirits creative director Beau du Bois, formerly of The Restaurant at Meadowood (the Grand Award winner in Napa Valley that burned down in a 2020 wildfire).
Housed in a remodeled old building, Marisi takes inspiration from Italy’s Amalfi Coast, with cheery hues of blue, green, yellow and pink, complemented by vintage art prints, mosaic tiled floors and fresh flowers throughout the space. The 100-seat restaurant includes an enormous covered patio, a half-moon bar and an open kitchen with a brick and tile hearth.
The menu, which also takes inspiration from the Italian coast, focuses on handmade pastas and wood-fired dishes from the hearth. A range of homemade classics blends with coastal fare, often with unique spins. “For our squash blossoms, we’ve combined two traditional dishes. Instead of classic cheese stuffing, we’ve stuffed fried squash blossoms with caponata,” said Huff. For a current pappardelle dish, he uses heritage rye from Tehachapi Grain Project, grown near the Tehachapi Mountains, northwest of Los Angeles, for the pasta and makes a duck ragu with preserved lemons for a lighter take. “We keep classic Italian techniques while sourcing the best, local California ingredients,” he added.
Wine director Chris Plaia has built a list shy of 90 offerings divided mainly between Italy and California, except for a smattering of Champagnes. He has given special attention to smaller Italian winemakers, he said. “I’m a huge fan of wines from some of Italy’s less explored regions, such as the Valle d’Aosta, Liguria and Alto-Adige. These wines have a unique character to them and their QPR [quality-to-price ratio] is off the charts.” A fine example is a Schiava from Alto Adige producer Elena Walch.
Creating a diverse list with bottles at every price point was important, Plaia added, from quality $40 bottles to splurgy options, such as Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d’Abruzzo or Corison Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. “Most of the wines on the list are organically and biodynamically farmed,” Plaia noted. “Technically speaking, our program is made predominantly of natural wines; however, they are very clean expressions of the style.” Marisi offers 20 wines by the glass and also features an array of classic Italian aperitivi, such as vermouth and housemade limoncello, and an Italian pilsner brewed in-house.—A.R.