Off the Griddle with Ihopapotamus at…Maialino!

Maialino’s head chef, Nick Anderer, serves gourmet Roman fare backed by years of culinary experience at places like Babbo and Gramercy Tavern. So he thinks he can pancake? This Ihopapotamus investigates.

(photo from google maps!)

I walk into Maialino and feel like an underdressed tourist in a fancy hotel. The Gramercy Park Hotel, to be specific. The entrance is pretty ritzy looking – two double glass doors with wrought iron handles, upscale lighting, and a wine room. In contrast, my friend and I have just come off the street, freshly sweaty from the 94 degree heat, in shorts and t-shirts (no fanny packs, though).  But after a few more steps in the door, I see rustic wood chairs, a coffee bar, and blue checkered tablecloths. My apprehension abates. Nobody is wearing ballgowns here.

(photo from Maialino)

The hostess leads us to our seats. The restaurant is bigger than it first appears and has a lovely decor which balances swanky and cozy. We’re seated at a little booth by the window looking out onto Gramercy Park.

The menu has many intriguing dishes like the olive oil muffin, the porchetta sandwich, and the fried artichokes in anchovy sauce. But my mission here is pancakes. And since there is only one on the menu, my choice is easy. (We also order a side of bacon and a side of potatoes; that’s an easy choice too.)

Two large ricotta pancakes arrive on a plate of their own. Then comes a plate with the Toppings (and yes, a capital T is appropriate here). Fresh strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries nearly overflow their ramekin. Real maple syrup scent wafts over the table. And there’s a ramekin of fresh ricotta that several people mistake for whipped cream.

First I take a picture.

My dining companion shows remarkable restraint as she waits for me to finish taking pictures to start her meal (also the ricotta pancakes). I’m not sure that I would have been so polite were our positions reversed…

I take a bite of the pancake by itself. It’s flavorful and moist and tastes like there’s some lemon involved, which gives it lightness and freshness. The ricotta in the batter gives the pancake a softness that’s not too wet or soggy, although the pancakes are not as quite as crispy on the outside as they could be. One small section of my bottom pancake has a crispy edge, which is fantastic. If the pancakes had that crispy edge all around, I think it would add some much needed crunch and be a really nice counterbalance to the smooth and creamy ricotta. (However, after reading several ricotta pancake recipes, notes, blogs, etc. it seems that most people don’t share my desire for crispy on the outside when it comes to ricotta pancakes. So this is just a personal preference.)

Now it’s Topping time! I use all the berries, all the ricotta, and most of the syrup. And I forget to take a picture. What can I say? I was a little distracted. I take a bite of this brunchy beauty, and experience a soft, rich, fluffy pancake with different textures and dimensions of flavor that’s not too sweet. The mild creaminess of the fresh ricotta is lovely with the juicy tang of the fresh berries. The slight lemon flavor in the pancake keeps it from feeling too heavy. And although our sides of roasted potatoes (delicious!) and the pancetta bacon (too fatty and overpriced for me) may have an effect, I don’t feel any kind of palate fatigue. The flavors continue to be scrumptious the whole way through.

I clean my plate (of course), but my friend has to raise the white flag (although she ate valiantly). The bill comes to about $20 per person (before tip), with a side dish each. I find the price point a little on the high side for pancakes (the ricotta pancakes are $15), but it seems like Maialino uses good ingredients and I did thoroughly enjoy my brunch experience there.

(pic from Be Still a Minute…)

Overall, the ricotta pancakes were very good. I left the restaurant happy and full. However, I don’t think this place warrants any kind of pancake pilgrimage. So if you’re not nearby, don’t knock yourself out to get here. If you happen to be in the general vicinity and you like ricotta pancakes (and amazing toppings), then try it out. Just make sure to leave your fanny pack at home.

4 out of 5 Paul Bunyans: 


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