Friday, February 28, 2020

Maialino Mare

Maialino Mare is a Roman-style trattoria with an emphasis on seafood pastas and fish newly opened in DC's Navy Yard — a coastal sister to the original Maialino restaurant opened in New York City in 2009. Sourced from its local family of farmers and fishers, Maialino Mare uses quality, seasonal ingredients throughout the menu, complemented by a robust Italian wine list and beautiful, rustic desserts. Executive Chef Rose Noel draws inspiration from Roman trattorias to create seasonally inspired Italian fare.  Maialino Mare participates in a revenue share and is a non-tipping restaurant.  Closest Metro is Navy Yard.

We came here for Keith's birthday dinner, and arrived a little before our reservation time. Our table was not ready yet, so were asked to wait at the bar. Twenty minutes later, we were seated. Despite the tall ceilings, the dining room itself is not that large with less tables than expected for a new building. The ambient lighting was also quite dark and the noise level a little loud from all the conversation.  We ordered a bottle of 2010 Vigne Vecchie Nerello Mascalese, Calabretta, from Sicily, Italy. I splurged on this bottle ($88) due to the region, and the sommelier was also shocked that we picked it, stating it was the last bottle they had and did not think the vintage was available anywhere else in the city ("a unicorn", he said). I admit, this was a little intimidating and I hoped it tasted good. We found it to be very dry, almost sour, and heavy in the earthy/leathery/mineral notes. It needed to aerate and got better as it sat and opened up. It also paired better with the spicy tomato sauce as opposed to the lemon butter sauces.

To start, we shared the Carciofini Fritti - fried baby artichokes.  Served simply with a sprinkle of salt and a fresh lemon wedge, these were a tad dry and plain.

Next we shared two pasta dishes.  The Trenette Alle Vongole is their popular dish of little neck clams in a white wine and garlic sauce served over a linguine-type pasta.  It was perfect.  We also ordered the off menu special: Polpettine de Granchio. The crabmeat balls - or - crab meatballs (ha) - were made with lump crab meat, deep fried, and served over spaghetti in a spicy tomato sauce. The juxtaposition of sweet crab and spicy sauce was so good. I really loved this dish.

For the main dish we shared their house special - Maialino Al Forno or slow-roasted suckling pig.  Brined for two days, and then flash fried created a very crispy skin with a tender and juicy interior.  Served over roasted rosemary potatoes, we also ordered a side of Funghi Trifolati - cremini mushrooms in a white wine and anchovy sauce.  This dish was more than plenty for two people, so we packed up the remaining third to take home.

Though we were pretty full, we were celebrating Keith's birthday so we had to order dessert.  We shared the Tiramisu made with espresso soaked pavesini cookies and mascarpone cream and assorted cookies: lemon sugar, Italian Wedding, cherry pistachio biscotti, nutella thumbprint, and hot chocolate.  I also ordered an Affogato - Fior Di Latte (vanilla gelato) with a shot of espresso poured over it.

All in all, we had a generous meal and our server was very nice, but the food took noticeably long to come out at times.  We were there for nearly three hours, which gave us European vibes.  The revenue share concept made us wonder if this affected the quality of service, since there is no motivation in "working for tips".

Total Rating: 3.7
Food: 4, Price: 3, Service: 3.5, Ambience: 3, Accessibility: 5

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