An Early Look at Danny Meyer's Maialino: Lamb Neck, Oxtails, and Cipolline

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Neck o'lamb with cipolline in the background
Maialino means "suckling pig," but last night at Danny Meyer's new Roman trattoria, we went for the braised lamb neck instead of the namesake pig. If what the food pundits are saying is true, you'll be eating a lot of that cartilaginous, flavorful cut in the coming months.

Epicurious recently predicted that lamb will supplant pork as the most popular meat in 2010, Eat Me Daily wrote that lamb neck is the new bacon, and Ruth Reichl agreed, twittering that lamb neck is 2010's pork belly. Food and fashion: More closely related than we care to think.

In any case, you don't need to pay $24 for a plate of the neck at Maialino--you can braise it yourself in red wine and carrots, just like a simple pot roast, as we did with a neck from the Greenmarket's Uphill Farms.

But if you do want to check out Danny Meyer's newest restaurant, the lamb neck is a very nice thing to eat there. The musky-sweet meat is braised to tenderness in rosemary and Frascati wine, which gives it an acidic lift that keeps the dish from being too heavy.

We also tried the oxtails ($23), braised in a very simple tomato sauce with celery and carrots, and the cipolline in agrodolce ($5), which you can see in photo of the lamb neck. The small, sweet, ufo-shaped onions are cooked in Balsamic vinegar until soft and assertively sweet-and-sour.

But we got the most pleasure out of the pasta dishes, which also represent the better values. Tonnarelli cacio e pepe ($14) is a simple, Roman-style dish, composed of pasta--here, tonnarelli, a kind of square spaghetti--tossed with copious amounts of black pepper and sharp Pecorino cheese. And the namesake suckling pig shows up in a pasta dish, the moist, piggy swabs interspersed with torn sheets of egg pasta in a lemony sauce ($17). That'll warm you up.

2 Lexington Avenue
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