Back to Life
Txikito and Maialino Return
Some terrific restaurants are making their way back to life after being shuttered by the pandemic. Just a couple of weeks ago, Alex Raij and Eder Montero reopened Txikito, and last night Danny Meyer’s Maialino, which used to be in the Gramercy Park Hotel (you must read the story about the liquidation sale!) has reopened as Maialino (vicino), located just a few blocks north of the original in the Redbury Hotel.
At Txikito, which has stayed in the restaurant’s original 9th Avenue home, you will find a menu of pioneering Basque dishes honed by Alex and Eder over the past 14 years. (View the current menu here.) “Txikito has always been our ‘lab’ - the kitchen where so many dishes were first born, reinvented and now, given life all over again,” said Alex. “After the unimaginable challenges of the past two and a half years, the time is finally right to announce that Txikito is back! Eder and I couldn’t be happier.” Well, me too.
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When I visited a couple weeks ago, I went in for some wine and tapas, and honestly could have snacked for hours if I hadn’t needed to return home and parent my children. There’s a traditional Gilda, the briny skewer of Basque anchovy, pickled pepper and olive, and the Hot Jilda, a reimagined take on the Gilda featuring smoked Japanese sausage, guindilla, onion and mustard. Kroketas are the perfect bon bon; a golden crust surrounding a center of salt cod and bechamel. The menu also includes nearly sheer slices of octopus carpaccio with citrus and piment d’espelette, Laminas de Setas, slivered king oyster mushrooms with tomatoes, idiazabal cheese and marcona almonds, a signature since opening, as well as Double Pil Pil —olive oil poached cod, garlic and poblano-padrón pil pil, a foundational and essential Basque dish. For dessert, you’ll want both the Gazta Pastela, a la viña-esque cheesecake with pineapple and espelette, and the Flan Batido, a whipped chocolate flan with olive oil, sea salt and chantilly.
I always love what Alex and Eder do with cocktails, and the list here is super fun, created with an eye towards Basque drinking customs and the couple’s personal history. The Transnational is made from rhum, cherry leaf cordial, green chartreuse and lime, but the bigger draw may be their entire section of Gin and Tonics that feature the classic Gintonic TX 2008 with Plymouth Gin and a twist of lemon, Nehi Tonic 2016 with green peppercorn, Hayman’s Gin and local concord grape, and Gernika 2022 with cherry blossom gin and umeshu. As before, Txikito’s wine offerings celebrate Basque Rioja, Navarra and Txakoli.
Over at the new Maialino (vicino) you’ll find a rustic menu of Roman classics served at the trattoria and its adjacent wine bar. Sadly, chef Nick Anderer is no longer in the kitchen; he opened Anton’s with GM/Beverage Director Natalie Johnson, formerly of Loring Place, so go see him there for dinner or a classic luncheon. But don’t panic; Joe Downey-Zayas, who served as Chef de Cuisine at Maialino prior to the pandemic, is now the Executive Chef.
“Maialino is where I first got my start as a chef. It’s a restaurant that I love deeply and have missed greatly,” said Downey-Zayas. “The beauty of Maialino lies in its dedication to time-honored culinary traditions – rustic dishes made with a simple number of quality ingredients that have the power to transport you.”
The menu has maintained its Roman roots, which means you’ll find Vitello Tonnato, Tonnarelli a Cacio e Pepe and Bucatini all’Amatriciana, alongside other Maialino favorites like Malfatti al Maialino with braised suckling pig, Grana Padano and arugula, and Spaghettini alle Vongole. Secondi include Pollo alla Diavola, a half chicken seasoned with chili flakes and black pepper, Pesce Spada, swordfish with roasted tomato, pine nuts, basil and raisins, in addition to the restaurant’s namesake dish, Maialino al Forno, featuring a house-butchered suckling pig from Four Story Hill Farm in Pennsylvania, served with rosemary potatoes. For dessert, what’s better than a Torta di Olio d’Oliva, olive oil cake with vanilla bean mascarpone? I’m not sure either.
Beverage Director Cory Holt and USHG’s Patrick Smith are celebrating the diversity and depth of Italian viticulture, and leaning into Grappa, Amaro, Gin, Vermouth and Scotch on their cocktail list. There’s a Martini al Pomodoro with Bordiga Gin, Caffe Grappa Italiana, Cocchi Americano, pickled tomato and a skewer of Grana Padano, alongside The Godfather made from Chivas Regal 13 Year Sherry, Amaretto and Fred Jerbis Bitter, and a Negroni with Beefeater 24, Bordiga Rosso Vermouth, Campari, Vecchio del Capo Riserva.
What I like about this iteration of Mailalino its casual walk-in wine bar, the perfect place to run to after your work-from-home day has made you rather sick of your own apartment. Have a glass of wine or two, a plate of Italian salumi and formaggi, some preserved vegetables, a crostini or panini (or all of the above) and enjoy the buzz of people sitting close together, drinking, eating and coming back to life.
Txikito is located at 240 Ninth Avenue (24th Street) in New York City. Currently open Tuesday - Sunday from 5:30pm, Txikito accepts reservations via Resy, with tables available for walk-ins each evening. Please call 212-242-4730, visit www.txikitonyc.com or follow @txikitonyc for updates and news.
Maialino (vicino) is located at 30 E. 30th Street at The Redbury Hotel in New York City. Open Tuesday - Saturday beginning at 5:00pm, Maialino takes reservations online via SevenRooms and at (212) 777-2410. Please visit www.maialinonyc.com or follow @maialino_nyc for news and updates.