While most restaurants nowadays chafe at being cubby-holed (quick, name a recently opened Brooklyn eatery that’s unequivocally French, Italian, or Chinese), the 10-month-old Maite in Bushwick is particularly tough to pin down. Is it Basque? The name (translated to “loved one”) indicates as much, as do the sagardotegi-style interiors—all honeyed, heavy wood and grand chandeliers—further emphasized by an admirable selection of cider. But instead of cod omelets, you’re more likely to find palm-sized empanadas on the menu, puffy with pork cheek, beef tongue or duck confit; being that owner Ella Schmidt originally hails from Colombia.
She also spent time working under chef Ignacio Mattos at the Mediterranean-Italian Il Buco, which could explain all the pasta, such as starchy gnocchi (keep in mind that Spanish explorers brought potatoes to Italy all the way from South America), as well as opulent raviolini, fertile with foie gras. Or perhaps, they’re a tribute to her extended stint at Al Di La instead; we’re sure Anna Klinger would endorse the twist of eggy, irregular maltagliati, mopped with a boldly spicy rabbit-based ragu.
It’s a bit of a global grab bag to be sure, although Schmidt makes mercifully subtle attempts at cross-pollination by pairing a grilled steak (a cider house staple) with tender-crumbed arepas; layering coca (a kind of beer-raised Spanish pizzette) with carnival squash and mushrooms; and balancing the inherent syrupiness of dulce de leche with salty stracciatella cheese. If one dish reads as a bit of a gimmick, it’s a quivering bulb of burrata on an unwieldy slab of toast, sadly sublimated as it is by a murky pool of squid ink. It’s a forgivable misstep; otherwise, the winningly one-of-a-kind Maite commendably fires on all cylinders—a pleasure for cider-sipping, spaghetti-swirling, empanada-eating diners, even if it proves a headache for category-loving guides like Zagat.
159 Central Avenue, Bushwick