The Brunch Dish: Contadino at Maialino
Brunch at Maialino is a dignified affair: it's quiet, classy, and when I dined there last week, there wasn't any wait to speak of. The Roman restaurant's brunch has been covered here extensively, but their menu is always different, changing with the whims of the nearby Greenmarket in Union Square. Take, for example, the Contadino ($15), which featured those perfectly poached eggs atop sauteed sweet corn, sungold cherry tomatoes, and mild jalapeños. A simple dish elevated by perfect ingredients, this was a relatively light option for brunch.
For something heartier, the Coppa Romana ($13) consists of a crispy fried hunk of pork terrine topped by another poached egg, all sitting on a bed of eggplant caponata. Again making use of the fantastic eggplant we're seeing at the market right now, the tangy, almost creamy caponata was the perfect accompaniment to the rich, fatty terrine. The poached egg is just gravy, figuratively and literally speaking.
Don't forget to grab something from the pastries or sides menu while you're there. I'm partial to their olive oil muffin, or Budino Di Olio D'Oliva ($3), though on this visit we tried the Maialino Scrapple ($6). Yes, fancy scrapple is a bit of an oxymoron, but it's hard to get too mad about it while eating this incredibly rich, savory version of the dish, which is basically a battered, fried terrine made from pork liver and belly. At first too rich for me, it was just perfect when cut with a squeeze of the accompanying lemon wedge.
With entrees ranging from $12-$15 and sides in the $6 neighborhood, brunch at Maialino isn't cheap, exactly. But those prices match up pretty nicely with the sort of brunch places that I, for one, live in fear of: line out the door, surly service, and food no better than your average diner. Considering that we had no wait, friendly, helpful service and seriously delicious food, Maialino's got one of the best brunches in town.