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Photograph: Scott G Morris

Review: Maiella

Read the recent restaurant review from one of the finalists in our Food and Drink critic competition


Queens is renowned for its affordable culinary landscape, but a recent surge of fine-dining establishments suggests an evolution is underway. Among the newcomers is Maiella, a sleek Italian eatery that combines a potent mix of classic ingredients and innovative execution into a dynamic contemporary menu.

Chef Rocco Sacramone’s origins in Abruzzo, Italy, are evident in the 180-seat eatery embellished with terra-cotta floors and dramatic, wood-coffered ceilings. Industrial lighting and a pronounced marble bar lend a balancing modernity, one that’s dually reflected in the raw tuna with foie gras and poached pear, ricotta and spinach gnudi (a potato-less gnocchi), and wild boar meatballs with ostrich and venison.

The pastas amply illustrate Maiella’s rustic-meets-refined dichotomy, among them a porcini and shrimp spaghetti with a pancetta-driven smokiness that’s delightfully unexpected, and the chef’s specialty, an earthy yet robust fusion of house-made fettuccine, sun-dried zucchini and crumbled sausage.

Entrées like the pistachio-glazed cod leave flavor to be desired, but the slow-cooked short ribs—braised for five to six hours in a white wine reduction—deliver feathery wisps of meat atop velvety polenta to toothsome results. A voguish banana-cream napoleon completes the experience, delicately personifying Maiella’s ability to make the traditional feel unmistakably new.

By Christine Fischer

Christine Fischer is a freelance writer in New York City who’ll do just about anything for pasta and champagne.

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