My dear friend and I have been trying to plan an adventure to Eataly for about 2 months now…When I first read about it’s opening, I was so excited and could not WAIT to go check it out. Our first attempt was thwarted by a pet-related emergency and we tried again. Salmonella was to blame for the 2nd missed attempt, and though at the time I felt like I’d never want to eat again, the ravenous, insatiable appetite quickly returned. Well, the third try was the charm and we picked a Sunday night to go check it out.
I had read SO many mixed reviews since it’s opening, and was a little nervous about being overwhelmed by the size and underwhelmed by the quality. As someone who is a bit over-sensory-aware in even calm situations, the 50,000 square feet filled with imported foods, 7 different restaurants, food stands for gelato, pastries, chocolates, Alessi cookware, and more could potentially have had my head spinning pretty quickly. I also worried that I’d built up the hype in my head for 2 months now, and was maybe setting myself up to be disappointed.
Not so! When we got there at 7pm on Marathon Sunday it was pretty quiet. Tables were mostly full, but not so full that we had to wait to be seated. There were lots of beautiful people, both NYers and tourists dining and shopping, but the crowds were no where near as thick as some people have complained about. I guess we picked the perfect day and time to go, and the previous missed attempts were for good reason.
We started at La Verdura, the vegetable restaurant, and decided to share an appetizer here along with a glass of delicious 2008 Friulani wine. We had the special bruschetta of the day which was spaghetti squash with brown butter, Parmesan and fried sage. WOW. So tasty and butterylicious. I tend to get in cooking ruts and don’t do much with spaghetti squash other than cooking it like pasta with Parmesan and red sauce, but I was newly inspired by this and plan to make it at home soon.
The service was pretty good, although I will mention that the waitress poured me half a glass of wine from the end of one bottle and then topped it off with a new one. Well, that’s not so cool. Luckily, I’m pretty much a wine novice so it wasn’t a big deal, but it certainly did seem a little tacky to me. It also took 3 requests to finally get the olive oil for dipping that we wanted. Other than that, our waitress was friendly, attentive and knowledgeable.
After our snack, we decided to do a little shopping before our next course. This market is SO beautiful. Pastas, breads, produce to die for, a seafood market that made me want to dive in and try fish I’d never heard of, meats and cheeses to entertain guests with, tons of friendly and helpful staff all over (although they DO, ew, all wear those horrible Batali-orange crocs. They sell them there too, just in case you’d like to emulate Mario’s horrible sense of style) and the design and architecture of the building itself is pretty incredible. The spices, jams and sauces are packaged so beautiful it’s almost like a food museum. I would not recommend a visit if you are short on time. This is a place that you’ll want to browse thoroughly, and doing it in a rush would be stressful and not fun- especially if it’s crowded. As gorgeous as the market is, I only bought a few things. The prices are exorbitant and I highly doubt I’ll shop there very often- although for special occasions or hard-to-find imports it’s perfect. One of the coolest features is a free-of-charge vegetable butcher who will happily prep your produce for you. Awesome. I had her work on peeling a bunch of baby artichokes for me and am excited to cook them tonight. I was also REALLY excited to see that the bread baker is a woman I know and love from when she used to work at Orwashers uptown. I missed seeing here and wondered where she went. It was a wonderful and pleasant surprise to see her here. She’s the kind of woman who makes you want to hug her. Long, grey dreadlocks and a warm smile. I would trust her opinion on all of the breads, just ask her what’s best and don’t question it. Take my word for it. My friend bought a rustic fig bread that, as she emailed me about this morning, is apparently amazing. I plan to go back to buy one soon.
After we looked around for an hour or so, we were ready for another snack so we went to Il Crudo. We ordered a meat and cheese plate and mixed marinated olives. Everything we had was delicious, especially the olives and the best ricotta I’ve ever had. I wonder what my famous lasagna would taste like using THAT instead of the grocery store container I usually buy. I must find out soon. I will let you know. Maybe I’ll even invite you over for dinner.
Until then, go to Eataly. Eat and shop to your heart’s content and let the naysayers stay home.
P.S. On our way out, we caught a whiff of hazelnut and chocolate pouring from a faucet in a glistening, melty display. We just HAD to have a little sample and bought a tiny piece of the most delicious little piece of heaven. And yes, if you were wondering, I did forget to take a picture of it. It was in my happy tummy before I realized it. Sigh, I suppose I’ll just have to go back and do that part again.