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There's No Place Like Eataly

by Michelle Carol
Eataly is a New York food experience like no other --photo courtesy of Eataly
When my parents visited me recently in New York, I suggested we have dinner at Eataly. I knew my mom was excited to see some of my favorite spots in town and I wanted to take her and my dad to a place glittering with the energy of the city and serving memorable food. 

Walking into Eataly for the first time is a New York food experience like no other. It's not uncommon to stop dead in your tracks, look up and around, and say “Wow!” After you enter, it will be only seconds before a dozen or more people walk in the door behind you, urging you to keep exploring the abundance of fresh ingredients and prepared dishes from which to choose in this foodie's marketplace.

You'll hear different languages buzzing on all sides and wonder how you're going to make it through the crowd, in which direction you'll walk, and what you're going to eat first. You won't be disappointed with any route you take, but I recommend having a plan.

I thought it would be a good idea to stroll through Madison Square Park with my parents on the way to Eataly’s Fifth Avenue entrance, which is exactly what we did. We entered through the gelato part of the market, walked slowly past the chocolates and desserts and into the small home decor section (over the course of 25 minutes, mind you). While I put our name into the pasta and pizza restaurant, my parents picked out a few (eh hem, overpriced) bags of pasta to purchase.
A sampling of the delicious desserts at Eataly
For those who are new to Eataly, I can best describe it as a large market with a selection of open restaurants, bars, and shops ---all Italian, all delicious. Although it feels like  a classic New York staple to many new city dwellers and tourists (including my mom), Eataly has only been in NYC since 2010.

Our expected wait time was 45 minutes for dinner, which is standard for a Saturday night at Eataly. The hostess said she would text me when our table was ready (I love modern restaurant technology!). 

If you can find a place to sit, I highly recommend having an appetizer before your meal. (The Italian way to kill time!) There are separate fish, cheese, meat, and vegetarian eating areas. Yes, Eataly is that big! Also keep in mind --- the restaurants La Piazza, Il Pesce, Il Verdure, and La Pizza and Pasta do not accept reservations. Tables are only available on a first come, first served basis. But, there are plenty of other areas of Eataly to keep you busy and stop you from starving while you wait. You can even grab a glass of wine while you shop!

Eataly has a large selection of cured meats and cheeses--photo courtesy of Eataly
Luckily, we noticed a group about to leave from their stand-up table in the cheese market, so we took their spots. There, we ordered the Grande Piatto Misto Di Salumi, a selection from Eataly’s Salumi, which translates in English to “Big Plate Of Mixed Meats," and Grande Piatto Misto di Formaggi, a selection of artisanal cheeses, ($19 per board). The meats were excellent--- each seasoned and cured to perfection, and never oversalted. The cheeses complemented the meats perfectly, and the assortment of creamy goat's milk and sweet cow’s milk was an excellent prelude to dinner.

At last our table was ready and we were seated and pizza was on our agenda. My parents and I shared the classic Margherita ($14), with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil, and the Capricciosa ($18), with mozzarella, mushrooms, ham, artichokes, tomato sauce, and black olives. The dough was thin and soft--just the way I like it. I am the first to admit that my love for basil is more than average, so I was disappointed in the Margherita because it only had two small leaves of basil on the whole pie. 

Although the pizza was tasty, I would've liked more fresh basil.--photo courtesy of Eataly
The sauce on both pizzas was balanced, hearty and the perfect combination of sweet and savory. The Capricciosa was absolutely delicious -- full of fresh tasty toppings. Forcella, closeby in Gramercy, serves a similar style pizza, but theirs is unmeasurably better than Eataly’s. (There are three locations: Bowery, Gramercy, and Williamsburg.)

I insisted on getting raspberry sorbet and chocolate gelato for dessert and did not regret it, even though I couldn’t breathe when I was finished. A decadent combination of rich, creamy chocolate and sweet, fruity raspberry was the perfect way to end the evening.

In addition to trying Eataly when visiting New York, it’s also a great destination if you are a New Yorker entertaining out-of-town guests.  For me recently, a trip to Eataly made a fun girl’s night out with my longtime friend, Gianna. 

Freshly shucked oysters at Eataly with a glass of Ribolla Gialla 
At the oyster bar we shared a half dozen P.E.I. oysters (Ostriche, $18/half dozen, $33/dozen) on ice and washed these down with a few glasses of Ribolla Gialla and Friulano. The oysters were exceptionally fresh and served exactly they way oysters should be: with lemon, vinegar, homemade hot sauce (which was excellent!) and fresh horseradish. Next time I want to splurge for the dozen. Following our little seafood snack, we walked around and admired some cookbooks before we were seated in the pasta and pizza restaurant.

Eataly serves fresh bread and fine imported olive oil, plus freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese upon request. Black pepper, olive oil, and grated cheese are a MUST for the Italian in me! 

Gianna and I shared two dishes: the Spaghettone Cacio e Pepe, ($18), served very al dente, like in Italia, with cheese from Lazio and black pepper, and the Lasagne with Ragu alla Bolognese, ($16). The spaghetti was just as al dente and black peppered as the server had described. I felt it might have been a little bit overpowering for my liking because after a few forkfuls I was ready to try my piece of lasagne. Perhaps what had turned me off was the heaviness of the pasta (spaghettone is a thicker spaghetti) and the generous amount of olive oil in the dish. Gianna, however, loved it and finished my portion. The lasagne was very well balanced with tender meat sauce and mozzarella cheese, and it worked out perfectly that Gianna and I ended up happily finishing the pasta and lasagne individually. 

Spaghettone Cacio e Pepe at Eataly-- by Muy Yum via Flickr
Every time I've been to Eataly, I've left satisfied, happy, and eager to return. Whether you're shopping,  enjoying wine, or eating dinner, Eataly offers a classic New York night out with friends, family, or a date. 

The Eataly experience doesn't come cheap, though. I am always guilty of spending more money than I would like, but I just have to tell myself the fresh, delicious food, attentive service, and Italian ambiance are worth the cost.

 The original Eataly was opened in Turin, Italy in 2007. Eataly was founded by entrepreneur Oscar Farinetti and restaurant geniuses, Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich, and Lidia Bastianich of  B& B Hospitality Group


200 5th Ave at W 24th St
(212) 229-2560

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