If you are in love with food, there is a place that will take your senses to a completely different level. Eataly is an uber supermarket/restaurant complex on the ground floor of the old Toy Building in the Flatiron District of Manhattan, sometimes referred to as the “best tourist trap that locals love, too.” It is a giant and splendidly crowded Italian-food market and restaurant conglomerate with a fishmonger, a butcher (including a vegetable butcher), an espresso bar, a wine store, a cheese store, a cooking school, a kitchenware department and a great deal more. The 2 Eataly locations in New York City are near Madison Square Park and World Trade Center.
Founder Oscar Farinetti insists that they aren’t a food hall. “We’re a grocery store with tasting rooms and restaurants. We don’t want you to just come and eat and walk away. We want you to come and taste some things and then take them home and cook them.”
Curious about the vegetable butcher previously mentioned? It turns out that the concept lives up to its name: if you’re not familiar with how to trim an artichoke, they’ll trim you an artichoke. If you don’t think you have time to peel your baby carrots, you can leave them and go shop in the other parts of the store, and they’ll peel them. They’ll do anything but cook them. To continue the vegetarian food theme, there is a restaurant called Le Verdure (at which it is somewhat easier to get a table than at the other restaurants housed inside Eataly even though no reservations are taken) because it serves only vegetables. But don’t be skeptical of a restaurant based around vegetables – the menu has a number of pasta dishes and larger entrees to choose from. The fried cauliflower with capers, herbs and whipped ricotta on top is to die for!
Eataly’s partnerships include Mario Batali, Lidia Bastianich and Joe Bastianich.The Flatiron location is over 50,000 square feet (4,600 m2) in size, and opened to a large amount of press coverage on August 31, 2010. Batali has described the place as a grocery store with tasting rooms. Most of the restaurants don’t take reservations so I don’t suggest coming here if you have any kind of time restraints. There are 5 different restaurants separated by cuisine (beef, fish & vegetables) mixed within a giant warehouse of a culinary store.
There is a restaurant at Eataly that serves only fish and seafood. It’s called Il Pesce, and it can be difficult to get a table there as no reservations are taken. It features fresh seafood that is responsibly sourced and is sold around the corner at the seafood counter. Every day, they offer a fresh selection of oysters, in addition to the “catch of the day,” served crudo (aka as Italian-style sashimi), pan-seared, roasted, and more. Fritto Misto is a must! The self-explanatory La Pizza & La Pasta is a first-come-first-served bar area. Eataly has teamed up with the experts at Rossopomodoro, a Napoli-based pizza company, to bring traditional Neapolitan pizza to Eataly. Here you can stand at a marble-top table and drink wine or eat salamis and cheese as if you were in Venice. Getting a table at Eataly’s La Pizza & La Pasta requires a great deal of patience, but there is a silver lining to this as one can walk around with a glass of wine looking at and exploring all of the delicacies available for purchase.
Only one restaurant in the entire building, Manzo, takes reservations. In keeping with its name (which means ‘beef’ in Italian), Manzo serves a lot of meat – five or six different daily-changing preparations of raw Piedmontese beef such as steak tartare, carpaccio, and carne sala (which is the top round marinated in tea and honey for 26 days and then thinly sliced). They also offer antipasto, pasta, various main courses, dessert, and coffee.
Eataly offers a plentiful array of dessert options throughout the marketplace as the “cherry on top” to a magnificent meal you can have in any of the restaurants. Stick around for a while after eating and watch the crowds while enjoying some Nutella crepes and gelato.
Eataly can be overwhelming, but not necessarily in a bad way. The entire place is full of options, options, and options – do you want seafood, gelato, pizza or pasta? What about wine? Perhaps you’d prefer to grab some groceries and cook at home? Eataly does have it all and a little bit more. If you can’t go to Italy anytime soon, it’s the next best thing. It has all the energy you’d expect from New York City, and it lives up to any expectations you may have.
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