Blissfully lost in Eataly

In an effort to bring high-quality Italian foods to New York, restaurateurs Mario Batali, Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and Joe Bastianich teamed up with Oscar Farinetti to open the megamarket and food hall Eataly, based on the success of the original Eataly, founded in 2007 by Farinetti in Turin, Italy. Located at 200 5th Avenue in the Flatiron neighborhood in Manhattan, Eataly is New York’s newest and largest Italian specialty food and restaurant emporium. Since opening on August 31, Eataly has lived up to the hype surrounding it and has attracted consistently long lines of customers. 

The 42,500-square-foot store features individual markets that offer high-quality local, fresh and organic foods, including seafood, meats, vegetables, and dairy products; a multitude of artisan Italian imports; and fourteen places to eat and drink—all under one roof. Informational signs in Italian and English are scattered on the walls and display cases throughout this huge space, informing customers of the provinces in Italy that each specific food product comes from and the vendors who supply the product. They also describe the philosophy behind eating fresh and local foods, prepared with time-tested methods.

Eating at Eataly

There are seven full-service restaurants in Eataly; most are close to the stations where their major ingredients are sold. Le Verdure specializes in vegetables. Il Pesce’s focus is on seafood prepared by David Pasternack, the chef at Esca. La Pasta offers many varieties of pasta on the menu, and La Pizza prepares Neapolitan pies; both La Pizza’s and La Pasta’s offerings are also available to go at an outside window on West 24th Street. Salumi e Formaggi specializes in salumi (assorted salted meats) and cheese items, which are eaten standing up at high marble counters in the La Piazza area. Il Crudo is a raw bar, and Il Manzo offers predominantly meat items prepared by Michael Toscano, the former sous chef at Babbo. 

Il Manzo accepts reservations, while the other restaurants post signs at a reception station; wait time for a table at these restaurants can be up to an hour. 

Other places in Eataly that serve food and drink, to eat in or take out, are: La Pasticceria (pastries and desserts), headed by Italian pastry chef Luca Montersino; Il Gelato, also overseen by Montersino; I Panini (sandwiches); Caffé Lavazza (espressos, cappuccinos and other coffee specialties); Rosticceria, where various meats, chicken and vegetables are prepared for takeout; Paninoteca, a bakery where fresh, wood-fired oven bread and focaccia are sold, overseen by Nancy Silverton from La Brea Bakery; Il Laboratoria de la Mozzarella (fresh mozzarella made by hand daily); Macelleria (butcher), where fresh vegetarian-fed, antibiotic free, hormone-free meats and Piedmontese beef crudo are sold, curated by Sergio Capaldo and Pat LaFrieda; Il Pesce (fresh fish and seafood counter); La Pasta (a counter where fresh pasta is sold by weight); I Salumi e I Formaggi (salumi and cheese), a counter where the prosciutto and salumi are sourced by Parmacotto and Antica Salumeria Rosi; and A Green Grocer (local, in-season fresh fruits and vegetables). A unique addition to this grand emporium is the “vegetable butcher,” Jennifer Rubell. She and her associates wash, trim, peel and prepare fresh vegetables to make them ready to cook at no charge to the customer.

Wines and Imports

There is also a large wine bar in Eataly, where a selection of Italian wines can be ordered by the glass. A 1,500-squarefoot wine store called Eataly Vino, which has a separate entrance on West 23rd Street, sells more than 750 different bottles of wines from many regions of Italy. The large rooftop La Birreria, a 300-seat microbrewery, beer garden and restaurant, is expected to open this winter and will feature brews made by Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione, accompanied by housemade sausages, cheese and other food selections. 

Eataly also contains floor-to-ceiling shelves full of a dizzying array of Italian imports, such as olive oil, balsamic vinegar, more than 40 varieties of imported dried pastas, spices, coffees and teas, honeys, jams, spreads, rice, cornmeal, canned tomato sauces, capers, anchovies, olives, packaged cookies and biscotti, chocolates from Venchi, bottled sparkling waters and Italian sodas, and housewares by Guzzini and Bialetti. There is an on-site bookstore in collaboration with the Italian publisher Rizzoli, and La Scuola—Eataly’s cooking school—which offers intimate classes handcrafted by Lidia Bastianich. Education will be a defining focus of Eataly; thus, there will be events year-round that feature food and wine courses, and demonstrations and lectures from renowned chefs and food and wine producers.

Authentic Neapolitan Pies

Eataly’s pizza, La Pizza Verace Neapolitana STG (Traditional Guaranteed Specialty Denomination), is made by the Italian Sebeto Group’s Rossopomodoro Pizza, which now has 80 restaurants around the world. There are 13 varieties of pizza offered on the menu; the prices range from $9 to $18. All of the ingredients come from businesses and farms in the Neapolitan region of Campania. At Eataly, pizzaioli make genuine Neapolitan-style pizza using Caputo Rosso flour, fresh tomatoes or peeled San Marzano tomatoes, extra-virgin olive oil from Naples, Italy, and fresh milk or buffalo mozzarella. The dough is kneaded to obtain exactly the right 14” circle shape and thin-crust consistency. In keeping with the Neapolitan tradition, they aim for a soft and elastic heart for each pizza. The pizzas are handmade by a team of pizza chefs recruited from Naples, and they’re cooked in brick wood-burning ovens called fornodoro, or golden oven, imported from Italy. These patented ovens were made by Neapolitan architect Riccardo Dalisi. 

This authentic style of Neapolitan pizza may be the one place where Eataly needs to make more of an effort to educate its customers. Food critics and food bloggers alike have not given the pizza a consistently good rating, perhaps due to the fact that the very soft and elastic heart of the pizza (a standard Neapolitan style) is unexpected by American pizza standards. While much time and effort is devoted to pure, authentic ingredients and preparation, it is of vital importance to maintain consistency and to present a uniform pizza to every customer. 

In the short time since its opening, Eataly has introduced many New Yorkers and tourists to the best Italian shopping experience outside of Italy. Eataly has a manifesto with the ten guidelines that they plan to follow posted on both their website and store walls (see opposite page). Perhaps guideline number six describes Eataly the best: “Eat—Shop—Learn”!

Patricia Badolato is a native New Yorker who enjoys blogging about all of the special places and events that can be found in the boroughs of New York. She’s also a traveler and avid photographer, and loves to cook. Find her on her blog, Mille Fiori Favoriti (millefiorifavoriti.blogspot.com).