Mismanagement at Maialino

on .

Maialino vanity

Here’s how a good manager can turn a bad situation around. Sort of. Potentially.

Maybe not.

On a recent trip to New York, I did something I don’t often do: I went back to a restaurant I had already visited. I seldom do that because there are always new and interesting restaurants to check out. A trip to the city offers only so many dining opportunities, why waste one on a known commodity?

But every now and then I like to relax and enjoy myself. So I made reservations for Maialino, the Danny Meyer restaurant in the Gramercy Park that I had enjoyed in the past. The homey Italian cuisine and comfortably bustling atmosphere of the popular restaurant was just what I wanted.

But the Roman-style trattoria, which opened in 2010, was showing signs of fatigue, both physically and emotionally.

Maialino bucket

The physical was demonstrated in the sunken banquette that my companion was sitting on. Or rather in, as it had an indent that suggested Pavarotti had one been seated there. This was pointed out to a manager, mainly as a courtesy — if no one ever told them something was wrong, how could they fix it? The manager shrugged.

There were fewer highlights with the food this time, as well. I liked my Malfatti, with bits of braised suckling pig and spicy arugula. But little else was remarkable. And we said so when our server asked how things were. (Since my first visit, Maialino, as have all Meyer’s restaurants, adopted a no-tipping policy, but I saw no decline in service overall.)

The manager who had shrugged about the sunken seat came back and removed the charge for one of entrees, which was nice. Still, our experience was such that we vowed to never return. (The decision was cemented when a visit to the restroom before leaving showed a vanity covered with towels and empty wine glasses, as seen in the photo at top.)

Then the following evening I received a call from a different manager. Because I had made the reservation — under a different name (yes, I’ll do that even in New York) — through OpenTable, the restaurant had my phone number. As I hurried to get dressed to make it to midtown for an 8 o’clock curtain, the manager on the phone said he was calling to apologize for the uncomfortable seat my friend had to sit in and to offer to send a gift card for $150 so that we could come back and enjoy the restaurant properly.

How nice. A personal call to show concern. A vow to never return can be broken with such an offer. I accepted.

Nearly two weeks later and no gift card has arrived.