Monday, September 20, 2010

Eataly Is Eatravagant, Eatceptional, Eatsquisite

Okay, so the name doesn’t really lend itself to a catchy title…I guess I should have settled for Eataly Is Impressive.

Actually, when a friend first told me about Eataly, the new Mario Batali/Lidia and Joe Bastianich/Oscar Farinetti Italian food emporium across from Madison Square Park in New York City’s Flatiron District, she had to repeat and then SPELL the name numerous times.

At first, I thought she was mocking an Italian accent, sort of how Giada would pronounce the country of her forebears, until I realized my friend was saying it that way on purpose.

I still think it’s a silly name, but when I visited Eataly last week, I saw that the name DOES capture what is inside the place.

Eataly is a boisterous riot of food, noise and activity in a cavernous, nearly 40,000 square foot space. The folks who came for lunch - and there were LOTS of them - were very brave. Tables are squeezed in areas amongst aisles of food, dry goods, kitchenware and wine with loads of people passing through at every juncture.

There are also counters to perch at and tall tables to stand by, while inhaling the most luscious cheeses and paper-thin pieces of prosciutto, presented on wooden boards. And of course, there are dozens of wines (all Italian) to choose from. There is also one very long line, thankfully with multiple cashiers. It’s well-organized in one area near the exit.

BTW, their website is a complete mess. I did discover that there are other Eataly’s in Italy and Japan, but if you didn’t know what Eataly was, you wouldn’t really figure it out from the website, which appears to have been translated directly from the Italian:

Eataly’s philosophy, in this sense, is dual: on one hand we find the products offer, under distribution form as well as restaurant opportunity, while on the other hand you find a speech based on didactics and articulated on cooking classes, tastings, on classes of foods’ correct conservation, didactics for children. Huh? Whatever.

Eataly is all about Italian food (and wine) in all its forms. You can buy ingredients to cook later or you can order pizza, seafood or other Italian dishes in the several restaurants and counter areas and eat there. Here are all the food and dining options at Eataly.

You can also do what most of us were doing on Friday afternoon - walk around in a trance and gape at the gorgeous displays, the huge selection AND the massive crowds.

One disappointment – Any prepared or prepackaged food that you buy from a non-restaurant food counter can NOT be eaten there. You either dine at one their eateries or you take it away, which seems positively un-American, although New Yorkers have no problem eating anything on the street. (I once saw two guys eating an entire pizza as they walked up 8th avenue.)

Whether you’re after authentic Italian sundries, beautiful cured meats, fresh crusty focaccia, vegetables, gelato, pastries, cheeses, wines sold by the glass or in a dedicated wine store, coffee, pasta or pizza, OR Italian housewares OR books (Rizzoli has a branch), you will find it in Eataly.

Oh wait, there’s more! A rooftop beer garden will open in November and a cooking school, La Scuola (The dean? Lidia Bastianich, of course), will open in October.

I bought beautiful barley and some gorgeous black Venere rice. (That link refers to a different brand than the Filiera Riso Venere sold at Eataly.)

I LOVE Forbidden Rice and this is the Italian version. The water turns the same stunning purple color before cooking as Forbidden Rice does and it cooks up to a rich, deep, inky color. It has great texture and it would be a fitting accompaniment to cold weather meat dishes or cooked into a lusty risotto.

Honestly, I would have been happy if they’d called it, “Lidia and Mario-land” or “Batali/Bastianich Vittles”. I suppose Eataly does describe the entire operation in one word, but whatever it’s called, if you love Italian food or drink, this is the place for you.


Pam said...

How lucky you are! What a great place and a great review!

Sue said...

Hiya Pam,
You have to add it to your list of places to visit if, no when, you're in New York.

Emily said...

Next time WE go together! I could spend hours in that store. I would like to eat there too. I can't believe there's going to be a cooking school also!

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I've been wanting to check this place out, but I'm waiting until the novelty wears off and the crowds lessen. Of course you can sign me up for the outing with you and Emily. ;-)

Sue said...

Em and Rach,
I'll meet you by the pizza counter.

Lys said...

I want to go too! :)

I'm putting this on the check out list when I'm in NYC next weekend - and the cooking school idea, love!