My friend and I had dinner at the bar at Mialino on Thursday night, and then in the dining room at Lilia, the new Italian in Williamsburg that Pete Wells recently awarded three stars, on Saturday night. Both were really good, but we both concluded that, even though we'd be perfectly willing to go back to either, we enjoyed Lilia more.
At Mialino, our order comprised a simple green salad (not on the menu, but they were more than willing to make it for us); the cavatelli with pork sausage, sungold tomato, corn, and pecorino; the pollo alla diavola (a half chicken, served under-a-brick style with black pepper and pickled chili); a selection of three cheeses; and a bottle of Ettore Germano (a sparkling rosé). The first pleasant surprise was that while the prices struck me as high, they didn't seem absurdly so, especially for a Danny Meyer restaurant, but then my friend pointed to the disclosure on the bottom of the menu that the tip was included in the price -- which I, of course, knew about at one point in time but had completely forgotten -- so all of a sudden our dinner, although far from cheap, was about 20% cheaper than I thought it was going to be! Everything was delicious, especially the pasta. The half chicken was huge, so we had plenty of food for the two of us, and was incredibly moist. If I had to pick one thing to complain about, it would be that the bartender did not course our meal, but rather the salad, the pasta, and the chicken were all brought at the same time. Nonetheless it was a very enjoyable meal. The total (which, again, included tax and tip) was about $200.
At Lilia, we had the prosciutto served with balsamic mustard, bread, and parmigiano butter; housemade mozzarella served on toasted garlic bread with lemon and bottarga; a little gem lettuce salad with "Italian" vinaigrette, oregano, and dried chili; mafaldini pasta with pink peppercorns and parmigiano reggiano; ricotta gnocchi with broccoli pesto, basil, and pistachios; unbelievably good soft serve gelato for dessert; and a bottle of La Spinetta "Il Rose di Casanova." While we had throughly enjoyed our Maialino dinner, we did not have the reaction there that we had at Lilia; at Lilia every single bite made us smile with delight. Even the fairly simple gem lettuce salad was amazing, possibly one of the best salads I've ever had, notwithstanding (or maybe because of) its simplicity. The pastas were both great. And the soft serve gelato -- a choice of chocolate, vanilla, or swirl served with your choice of up to three dry toppings (I don't remember the choices) -- certainly ranks among my favorite desserts. As I live in the neighborhood, I can totally see trying to score a seat at the bar and making a meal of the gem lettuce salad, a pasta, and the soft serve. Our meal came to just under $150, after tax but before tip, so about $180 all in. In addition to enjoying our food more at Lilia, we also preferred Lilia's brighter and more casual setting.
Again, we would be thrilled to (and almost certainly will) go back to Maialino again, but given the choice, we'd choose Lilia over Maialino.