Saturday, March 19, 2011

New York City - Eataly

I remember the days when I would take an empty suitcase with me on trips to Italy so I could bring back all of the authentic food products I could never find at home. Luckily, with the burgeoning of America's absolute love affair with Italy, its food, culture and dolce vita, more and more products have become available on the U.S. market in recent years through import. But some products here just aren't the same. For example, the Nutella you buy in the supermarket is made in New Jersey and they use a different oil than the real stuff that is made in Italy, and therefore, the taste is different. So you see, I take my food seriously. Thankfully, with the opening of Eataly, now I only have to take my empty suitcase as far as New York City.

The cheese counter
Eataly (the original location is in Torino) is a massive 50,000 sq. ft. space that was created by combining two buildings: an old events hall and a row of former toy stores. It sits on lower Fifth Avenue across from Madison Square Park and the iconic Flatiron building. Under one roof you will find anything and everything to do with Italian gastronomy: a butcher, fresh pasta maker, a bakery, coffee shop, chocolate counter, gelato shop, full grocery store, fish monger, salumi and cheese shops, vegetable market, a rotisserie, a wine shop, sandwich shop, bookstore, housewares, even a travel agency and a cooking school, not to mention six different dining options and a 150 seat beer garden on the roof.

Many varieties of homemade pasta for sale
Making fresh ravioli
In addition to the 150 seat rooftop beer garden that will open when the weather is warm enough, let's start with the restaurants:

Le Verdure is a seated counter and a table area that serves Italian style vegetable dishes including soups, bruschetta and warm and cold dishes. A chalkboard describes the day's in-season specials.

La Piazza is a stand up food and drink bar located in the center of the store and serves salami, cheeses, mozzarella and a raw bar as well as wines by the glass or bottle and beer. Counter and standing table space is available on a first come first serve basis and you just find a spot and a server will bring you a menu, take your order, and bring you your food.

Standing at the counters at La Piazza

A salami, cheese and fig with honey board at La Piazza
Il Pesce is a seated counter and table area that serves a raw bar plus Eataly's own creative and traditional take on Italian seafood from antipasto to main course portions. There are specials written on a blackboard that describe the daily catch.

Tables at Il Pesce
Finishing off a meal at Il Pesce
Manzo is a more formal dining experience celebrating meat from the U.S., where you can taste both modern Italian preparations and traditional piemontese beef antipasti, as well as get a full meal including antipasti, pasta, a main course and plated desserts from the meat centric kitchen.
The counter leading into the dining room of Manzo
 La Pizza & La Pasta share two seated counters and a table area that serves artisanal dried pastas as well as fresh pasta, including tagliatelle, lasagna and ravioli. At this location you can also have Rossopomodoro pizza imported directly from Naples, including the pizzaiolas. Pizzas are individual 10" size. I just loved the gilded wood brick ovens!

I decided to eat at La Pizza & La Pasta because I wanted to try their authentic wood brick oven Neapolitan pizzas. I started with a mixed salumi platter that consisted of copp, speck, bresaola and cacciatorin cured meats. They were all delicious. In addition to the full pizza menu, there is also a special pizza of the day, and this is what I decided to order. It was actually three different varieties of pizza in sections on one pie: the traditional Margherita (mozzarella, San Marzano tomato sauce, basil), the Casandrinella (mozzarella, tomato, ricotta, prosciutto and parmigiano reggiano) and the Massese (mozzarella, tomato, basil and spicy salami). The pizza was fairly authentic tasting and well cooked.

A salumi misti
The special pizza of the day

Below is a look at the bakery, the pasticceria, the fishmonger, the butcher shop, as well as the gelateria and Caffe Lavazza:



Here's my final assessment of Eataly: it is an amazing source for imported authentic Italian products and grocery shopping here, where you have everything you need under one roof, is quite amazing. However, if you think Whole Foods on a Sunday is a war zone, you may need to take a tranquilizer before doing your shopping here; in the end it has become a tourist attraction and there are massive crowds. The Caffe Lavazza serves some of the best coffee in the city and their traditional Italian pastries in the morning are sweet reminders of breakfasts in Italy. As far as the restaurants go, if you want a quick pizza, pasta or cheese and salumi platter, your needs will be met. But, if you want a truly authentic, quality, Italian meal, there are so many other places in the city that offer exceptional Italian dishes. If you can sign up for a cooking class with Lidia Bastianich at Eataly's La Scuola coking school before it sells out, I imagine it would be a wonderful experience to be in the presence of one of the finest Italian chefs in the U.S.

Adore the Italian packaging, so beautiful!

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