Over Thanksgiving, I flew to New York to share Thanksgiving with my extended family. After the feast itself, I had a pretty lengthy list of places I wanted to try and dishes I had to taste before leaving the city. And when it comes down to it, Mario Batali’s Eataly really deserves its own post. It is quite something–all 50,000 square feet of it.
Eataly is touted as the largest artisanal Italian food and wine marketplace in the world, and you certainly sense that upon walking in. The place is overwhelming in its variety, selection, and hungry crowds.
What Mario Batali and partners Joe Bastianich, Lidia Bastianich (and a few others) have done with Eataly is successfully create a high-end marketplace that has distinct sections so it almost feels like a large, airy hall with its own pizzeria, fish market, cheese market, handmade pasta, fruits and vegetables, and wine and coffee bar. There are seven separate restaurants and they’re trying to keep it that way, avoiding Eataly taking on more of a food court kind of vibe. We actually experienced this first-hand when my sister and I tried to finish our slice of pizza at the tables where you order your cheeses and meats. Apparently, so not acceptable.
The nice thing about Eataly is you can literally walk through and gawk and savor without purchasing a darn thing. It’s an experience in and of itself. Besides our light lunch, we didn’t actually buy anything (although there were dozens of opportunities to do so). I can certainly imagine if you lived in the neighborhood, it’d be a fabulous spot to pop in and pick up some homemade pasta or freshly pulled mozzarella. But I think on your first visit, it’s all you can do just to take it all in.
As if the cheese counter isn’t enough, you turn around and there’s a nice gentleman hand pulling mozzarella. You must try the mozzarella. It’s to die for. It’s just a little bit salty, ultra creamy, and perfectly soft.
After you check out the cheese, there’s meat to be had. From housemade prosciutto to perfectly cured salumi, this is a tough area to pass up. And this is obviously in Batali’s genes.
The vast array of cured meats & the meat counter at Eataly
And then, of course, there’s the pizza and foccaccia. You can see the gentleman on the top right there preparing the foccaccia dough and that’s my little sister Zoe doing a taste-test. She approved. We both did.
Pizza and foccaccia at Eataly
Everywhere you turn, there are little nooks and communal tables for folks to sit down and enjoy their meals, snacks, or quick tastes. This was my favorite part of Eataly, actually. It’s very non-committal in terms of actually having a meal. They encourage trying a little of this and a little of that and coming together and sharing them. You see families splitting up and getting samples of things and coming back to show off their finds. And then, of course, you see families just sitting down and having a traditional meal in one of the restaurants.
My mom and sisters and I ended up parking it by the cheese counter, sharing a plate of house-cured meats and a variety of cheeses and olives. It was the perfect little mid-afternoon pick-me up.
Our lunch at Eataly
I actually noticed many people pulling up to have a quick espresso before delving into the market. Smart. You’re going to need the stamina. But if you’re in the right head space (that it’ll be crowded and you don’t have the place to yourself), Eataly is not to be missed. It’s a visual smorgasbord of the best Italian packaged goods and prepared foods I’ve ever seen under one roof. If you are in New York and you’re even remotely interested in food, this is stop #1.