Upper East Side, NYC — An interesting new food service concept opened up on the Upper East Side about a year ago called Maroni Hot Pots, featuring Italian dishes dishes and traditionally and untraditionally cooked in a hot pot. Creative concepts make for initial interest and possible conversation, but the proof always needs to be in the tasting.
I happened on a rare occasion to have lunch time with a friend who lives locally by, We both decided to try Maroni for the first time. It is a quaint little spot on a side street just off 2nd Avenue. It presents as quiet and cozy, with a menu meant to evoke homey familiarity.
Known (so far) for their meatballs, I ordered the appetizer portion of the meatball trio, following that up with a pennette-starring cacio e pepe entrée — choosing to see how well the kitchen executes favored staples. My lunch companion went for two of the specials, a white truffle topped ravioli dish and their version of a vegetable lasagna.
I can definitely vouch for the juicy, bite-satisfying meatballs, prominent in their protein flavors and bathed in a well-balanced, piquant, clingy tomato sauce. I like the hot pot prep of the cacio e pepe presenting the dish more as a mac 'n' cheese than a pasta saucy fine noodle plate. The simple flavors still brightened the dish with its peppery brightness and palate-grounding salt.
My partner worked through both of her dishes so quickly than I can only assume they were likely delicious as well, as I didn't get an opportunity to try either of them. (I may have indeed been offered a bite of either, but all the plate's portions were healthy enough that I might have wisely decided to keep my intake to a minimum.
Ultimately, the food was tasty and satisfying enough that we both soon stopped regarding Maroni Hot Pots as a "concept" and more of the restautant it can proudly now claim we both will be repeat customers of.