If you are ever in NYC, don't walk, run to Eataly, creator Oscar Farinetti, Lidia and Joe Bastianich and Mario Batali's Italian food version of The Circus Maximus, an admixture of piazza-style European market and food-bling themed cafes under one humongous roof. I took my brother Gabe and sister-in-law (and best friend) Est there when they came up from Florida this past April. I had been there before with other friends a number of times and knew what to expect. A veritable "movable feast" for the senses. I figured that my brother who loves anything local, organic, vegetarian, health-oriented would enjoy Eataly because it offers all that fare and quality.
After slogging and wriggling through the Saturday Manhattan market day shopping crowds, we pressed in to touch the hem of the hostess' garment and she accommodated us reasonably quickly at the "Le Verdure" section and there Gabe ordered the special of the day, a large combination plate, including a cup of soup, two different salads and lightly cooked vegetables. Est ordered the Asparagi Alla Milanese with a glass of wine. Both enjoyed the home made peasant bread, dipping it in an excellent extra virgin olive oil, imported from Tuscany. I had the Insalata Primavera, delighted that the dish was Vegan, not produced with any animal products. My brother was contented that he was being served delicious vegetables and salads that had not been processed, prepackaged, chemicalized in their growing process, chemicalized and overseasoned during their light cooking process, and generally a dishonor to the planet and those living on it. Eataly respects its products, its patrons, its producers. And this is what I love about Eataly. Not only were our portions creditable, the food well executed and beautifully presented, in its totality, those dishes represented everything that their website boasts in their Manifesto.
If you are not a Le Verdure fan as my brother and Est are, then perhaps you would like to try one of the other speciality cafes: La Pizza & La Pasta, Il Pesce or eat at La Piazza pulsating with human vibrancy in the heart of Eataly and representing the true Roman enoteca experience. There standing or sitting at a marble topped bar you will go mad (if you love this sort of fare and I do) for the enjoyment of various Formaggi and Salumi, wine, salad with generous slices of speciality cheese and peasant bread. I love it at La Piazza; youth, passion, wine, cheese, vitality, Buzz! What more do you want? What more can you need? A more formal dining experience? Then you will make reservations at Manzo. Currently, they are offering a 7 course Spring Tasting Menu for $90.00 w/o wine which sounds out of this world and is in the old Roman style dinner with everything from soup to dessert, including meats, fish and pasta. I was raised on the old Roman style dinners at holiday time; they are fabulous. But as a responsible eater, now, you must only taste the dishes and not EAT them in their entirety!!! But if this is too much food, then they also offer an a la carte menu beginning with "Antipasti" on page two of Manzo's menu.
After Gabe, Est and I ate, we sauntered through the various speciality areas (wine, beer and beverages, salumi and cheese, fresh and dry pasta, bread, meat, seafood, etc.), There if you are "on the go" you can order take out from La Rosticceria (roasted meats with accompanying veggies) Paninoteca (paninni sandwiches) or get some dessert at Pasticceria or the Gelateria. Eataly offers a wide variety of quality local and imported products from Italy, including beverages. The cheeses are to die for, but then I adore cheese, any type, even Philadelphia Cream Cheese. (I hate Velveeta which is faux, plastic cheese.) And they will give you samples to taste. I had to be yanked away...I would have been there all day. The produce is local and fresh. Gabe who gobbles down cilantro by the bunch (it's a purifier, detoxifier and chelator) chomped into some he bought there without washing it. I nearly had a cow; but it looked crisp, cool, freshly picked and washed (not limp in the package like Trader Joe's cilantro up the block). And to date, with no ill effects, the man is as feisty as ever he was, and his liver and kidneys continue to be well scrubbed and happy.
Est and Gabe bought some lovely dark chocolate from the dolce section. Did I mention THE dolce section and La Pasticceria? Well, all the pastries, all twenty-five to thirty different types from the various regions in Italy are home made there and the cannoli are not like the ones the nuns made in Godfather III or like Clemenza's cannoli when he orders Rocco, "Leave the gun, take the cannoli." No! You want to identify the difference? The dough section on the Scilician cannoli bubbles when it's fried. Does the Pastry Chef Luca Montersino use a unique recipe and technique? Well, if his philosophy is less butter and sugar brings out an explosion of flavor, then, "Si." The result is visible; the cannoli are subtle, darker, smoother, thinner, more fragile and delicate, not exactly fitting for a guido and guida of Jersey Shore and The Sopranos. But it's definitely Italian, the cannolis, I mean and not a derivative. Now, I can say that because I am probably more Italian than you (first generation-both parents off the boat) and probably even more Italian than the casts of both shows.
Back to home made: the bread, the pasta, the mozzarella, the cafe food selections, the pastries, the cakes, the dolce, including the gelato in the Gelateria! Then there is the local produce and meat, natural, without hormones, grass fed. And finally, and I am a connoisseur, the Caffe Lavazza cappuccino bar (with seating) and Caffe Vergnano (w/o seating a la true Italian style) are absolutely lovely. If I lived across the street in one of the high rises in the area near Madison Park, I would visit every day instead of having my requisite Starbucks cappuccino. I am a shareholder, and I appreciate everything that has done to advance the company and turn it around. Mr. Schultz, you are brilliant and socially responsbile, but Eataly's cappuccino is "the real thing." And if I asked for organic milk, from picturesque, happy, grass-fed Vermont cows, they would give it to me for that's all they use. We need to have a talk!
It's always fun at Eataly. Maybe you can only relax at the very end of the day or the early morning because of "the noise of the greasepaint and the smell of the crowd" (that's an ancient title of a Broadway show everyone has forgotten, except for me...I'm a big fan of Broadway). But let's face it. That's also the fun of NYC. There is no place like it in the world. And like its hometown, there is no place like Eataly.
If you'd like to see some lovely pictures of Eataly, visit Elissa's blog at http://elissaunsweetened.blogspot.com/2011/02italy-is-eataly.hum For the "expert" review of Eataly right after it opened, there is http://www.insatiable-critic.com/Article.aspx?id=1411 . And if you happen to be in NYC, let me know. I'll meet you there for a cappuccino.