Eataly: A user's manual
TONY's handy guide to the best things to eat, drink and ogle at the Italian superstore.
Tue Oct 19 2010
The meat counter
Beef tartare at Il Manzo
The bread counter
Lasagne at La Pasta
A "vegetable butcher" prepares an artichoke
The seafood counter
Ovens at La Pizza
Five types of figs
Fritto misto at Il Pesce
The finished product
Pasta is made in-house daily
The fish counter
Salumi and cheese at La Piazza
200 Fifth Ave between 23rd and 24th Sts (212-229-2560). Subway: F, M, N, R to 23rd St. Hours vary, visit www.eataly.com for more info.
This massive new food and drink complex from Mario Batali and Joe and Lidia Bastianich, sprawls across 42,500 square feet in the Flatiron District. A spin-off of an operation by the same name just outside of Turin, Italy, the store's retail maze and six full-service restaurants can be a navigational nightmare—albeit an awfully fun place to get lost. To help you filter out the noise, we've tasted our way through Eataly—from impeccable vegetarian food to golden rotisserie chickens—and highlighted the top things to devour, in house and at home, in every food group.
Eat-in: Il Manzo, Mario Batali's big-ticket restaurant, is the only option here that takes reservations (call 212-229-2180). While you'll pay for the privilege of the white-tablecloth setting, the high-caliber carnivore cooking is worth every penny. Montana-raised Piedmontese-breed beef is hand-cut into a gorgeous tartare with a raw quail yolk and crisp truffled bruschette. Warm calf's tongue—among the off cuts that are Batali's forte—is served here in supple slices under fried leeks. The restaurant's pastas, including ravioli filled with braised beef reduced to an evanescent puree, are as elegant as any in New York.
Take home: The butcher case, Pat LaFrieda's first retail outlet, offers all of the same meat that makes Il Manzo so special, including Piedmontese hamburger patties ($8.80/lb), monster porterhouse steaks ($26.80/lb) and a large selection of offal ($3.80--$7.80/lb). The nearby rotisserie, meanwhile, churns out the city's best flame-roasted chickens ($4.80/lb) along with an enticing selection of on-the-go sandwiches ($12-- $15 each).
Eat-in: The real standouts at chef Dave Pasternack's seafood restaurant Il Pesce are the ever-changing blackboard specials. Recent gems have included tender Long Island swordfish served in thick breaded cubes with green olives and tomatoes. The classic fritto misto—a generous portion of greaseless fried shrimp, squid ribbons and flaky white fish—is an entre that's better suited as a starter for two.
Take home: The pristine sea creatures on ice at the fishmonger are the same specimens Pasternack uses both here and at Hell's Kitchen eatery Esca. While you probably won't know what to do with half of this stuff, ambitious cooks may be inclined to experiment—with spot prawns ($32.80/lb), scorpion fish ($16.80/lb), live Scottish langoustines ($32.80/lb) and bay scallops in their shells ($1.25 each).
Eat-in: Though the La Pizza and La Pasta restaurants, which share the same seating, are Eataly's most popular sit-down destinations, their food isn't always worth the hour-long waits. The Neapolitan pizzas range from a pretty ho-hum Margherita to a much more exciting cheeseless pie with sauted shrimp, mussels, squid and clams. Batali's pasta cooks do a commendable job showcasing the nearly 250 types of fresh and dried shapes on display, transforming, for instance, fresh pasta sheets and ground meat into a pitch-perfect lasagna.
Take home: The large selection of fresh pastas made daily on-site includes veal agnolotti del plin and ravioli stuffed with meat, cheese and butternut squash ($6--$12.50/lb). The bakery, meanwhile, churns out pillowy sheets of focaccia ($2.80/square) and big crusty loaves studded with walnuts or pancetta ($5.80 each).
Eat-in: Vegetarian restaurant Le Verdure's bold, meatless cookery includes a daily-changing selection of simply seared produce. On a recent visit, that meant a beautiful platter of al dente asparagus, summer squash, baby turnips, and wilted red peppers with almond pesto, and a cool salad of farro and bitter radicchio. The bagna cauda—a mountain of crisp crudits with warm anchovy dressing—is another light dish, while the pesto lasagna, layered with zucchini and pine nuts, makes for a rich main course.
Take home: Though "vegetable butcher" Jennifer Rubell may not be on hand every day, there's always someone on duty shelling favas or peeling artichokes. The gorgeous produce includes esoteric treasures you won't find at Gristedes, such as kafir limes ($5/lb), five types of figs ($4--$9/pint) and—for big spenders—black and white truffles ($420--$2,500/lb).
Salumi and cheese
Eat-in: La Piazza, a sort of eat-and-go central square with tall tables for leaning on, is the place to grab a quick snack while shopping, or a warm-up glass of wine while you wait for a table at one of the dining stations. Its salumi and cheese platters offer a good opportunity to sample the retail wares sold at counters surrounding the tables—including platters of aged Parmigiano-Reggiano and wispy prosciutto shaved to order on a red Berkel slicer.
Take home: Along with the usual Italian cheeses, you'll find offbeat specimens imported exclusively for Eataly—gorgeous pungent wheels infused with fresh truffles ($21.80/lb) or wrapped in chestnut tree leaves ($36.80/lb). Fresh mozzarella is also made daily on-site ($3.80--$11.40 per container). The salumi display sells prosciutto-like culatello ($65.80/lb), mole salami ($31.80/lb) and other artisanal meats made by Armandino Batali (Mario's father) in Seattle.
Eat-in: Pastry chef Luca Montersino oversees the gelato station, dispatching some of the best frozen treats in New York. The small assortment of a dozen or so staple and seasonal flavors, preciously hidden beneath silver lids, have an intensity rarely seen outside of Italy—the pistachio gelato tastes like a freshly cracked nut. The beautifully creamy scoops are available in cups or oversize cookie cones, but you might want to make this stand your first stop—popular flavors often sell out.
Take home: Montersino's custard cups and miniature cakes ($3.80--$5.80 each), displayed like jewels at glass counters near the exit, are great take-home treats. The shelves nearby contain a huge assortment of Italian chocolate, hard candies and nougat ($2--$30).