Eataly, a homage to all things Italian, is the brainchild of Mario Batali and Joe and Lidia Bastianich. This group has brought Italy to the masses through PBS, the Food Network, and a myriad of restaurants, of which Babbo has been a favorite, but on my most recent trip failed to deliver on Eatlay's motto "life is too short not to eat well." It seems Batali's energy is clearly focused on Eataly right now. And it shows...
Eataly is an extremely well executed concept -- it resembles a cross between a Northern Italian-style food market, and the London Harrod's-style food hall -- that boasts a dizzying array of grocery and sit-down food options. And while it is tempting to question its authenticity, it is hard to argue with the number of Italians on staff and visiting -- which I'd estimate at about a third of the clientele on a recent Monday afternoon.
On the grocery side of the house, you can find everything from lardo to pasta and cheese made on site as well as an array of Barilla pasta (also available at your local Giant -- so I recommend skipping that aisle!).
|Eataly Pasta Station|
Check out the not-so-subtle nod to Mario on the feet of the mistress of ravioli above.
|Eataly Mozzarella in the Making|
The mozzarella is so fresh its made right in front of you. The gracious cheese maker above gave us a taste of this still warm, creamy, tangy and sweet cheese right out of the vat. And this level of passion and customer service carried throughout. Upon finding Coenobium, an Italian white produced by nuns and a favorite of ours being served by the glass in one of the stalls, we inquired as to availability by the bottle. The woman pouring wine graciously asked her manager, who made it available retail at our request, and several bottles were waiting for us at the register at the adjacent wine store. Detail, service, and what must be a sizable amount of synchronization makes Eataly a unique standout.
After all that shopping, there are plenty of plated food options--cured meats, fish, pizza, and pasta--for satiating one's appetite. We opted for the pizza-and-pasta restaurant, where we secured two coveted seats at the bar as we snuck in right before the lunch rush. Our friendly, knowledgeable server explained the concept as we dug right in to our salad.
|Eataly Pickled Vegetable Salad|
This simple salad accented with pickled vegetables was quite fresh; the peppery arugula tasted like it was just picked.
|Eataly Neapolitan Pizza|
The Neapolitan pizza had a flavorful crust, topped with that incredible mozzarella, olives, artichokes, mushrooms,ham, and a tangy, sweet tomato sauce tying the whole thing together. All the guys making the pizzas seemed to be Neapolitan too. For $30 with a GUS pomegranate soda, it was a delightful lunch.
So if you find yourself in NYC, Eataly is worth the trip.
But before I conclude, just a side note on our experience the night prior at Babbo, one my favorite restaurants. which managed to disappoint on this visit. While the service was excellent as usual, the food was only mediocre to really good. Quite candidly, I expect more from a restaurant that requires multiple redial attempts 30 days in advance for a reservation. This past trip, we went with friends who had not yet dined at Babbo (though they live in New York, can you believe it?!) The only dish among the four of us that really wowed was the goose liver ravioli in a brown butter balsamic sauce. The beef cheek ravioli, mushroom fettuccine, and the selection of ice creams and sorbet all failed to deliver the exceptional care of preparation that Babbo is known for...at least to us.
So this two-day experience led me to the conclusion that Batali's managerial attention is squarely with Eataly. So go now, before he moves onto his next big thing!