Richard Coraine's official title is President of New Business at Union Square Hospitality Group. Unofficially, he's a seeker of what he calls "the most inspirational hamburger in America," of delectably salty Methodist church men's club peanuts, and especially of relatively obscure, artisanally roasted microbatch coffees. He's the guy who first brought Graffeo to Shake Shack and Eleven Madison Park (which has since switched to the equally excellent La Colombe), and Oregon's Allann Bros. to Tabla. Rather than buy in volume, as most restaurant groups do, Coraine and his partner Danny Meyer strongly believe in tailoring the coffee selection to a particular concept and flavor profile. At Gramercy Tavern, that meant espresso from Blue Bottle Coffee. In the case of Maialino, the inspiration was Rome, and Coraine found it down an alley in San Francisco's Mission District.
That's where he first encountered Four Barrel, the year-old coffee company that has, since its alley origins, expanded into a bona fide café and roastery. Owner Jeremy Tooker, 30, has quite the coffee-geek pedigree, having spent the last thirteen years behind one espresso machine or another. He co-founded cult coffee company Ritual, but then left to go off on his own, first pulling shots with Stumptown beans and then, once his long-awaited afterburner had arrived, beginning to roast his own, most of it sourced from single farms in partnership with Stumptown and Sweet Maria, a bean and equipment purveyor.
In its short life, Four Barrel has already built up a considerable Bay Area wholesale clientele, including restaurants like Slanted Door and Bar Tartine. But Maialino marks its New York debut, and Tooker flew in last Wednesday to train the staff. For now, they're serving espresso drinks using Four Barrel's Guatemala San Martin Buena Vista, but Coraine plans to commission a proprietary roast, and to start offering French-press pots for two or four at the tables and pour-over, or individually brewed cups, for breakfast at the bar. Every preparation, according to Tooker, should meet three essential criteria: clean (no off flavors), sweet (from the beans, not added sweetener), and balanced. Coraine would agree, with one caveat: Maialino's coffee, he says, "had to be resonant of what Rome tasted like to me. And it was important that Danny felt Rome as well."