We were warned. If you’re heading to Eataly, Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich’s new emporium of all things Italian and food: Bring sharp elbows and lots of patience. We needed only a little of each. A map would have helped, too. At least at first.
We walked in at the Fifth Avenue entrance, in the shadow of the Flatiron building:
Stragetically placed at the entrance are the gelato and espresso bars. People are crowded around them. Just a little further down in the distance, you can see the people in line for the panino bar:
When you walk in for the first time, it can be confusing. Where do we go? What is going on? What is where? I heard there were restaurants here, how do we eat at them? And where do we pay?
My advice? Just start exploring. There are six distinct areas. This first hall you’re seeing in the photos above, which has espresso, gelato, cookies and pastries, panini and cold foods to go, like cheese and meats. Then there’s a center piazza with tables for eating salumi and cheese, a vegetable area, a fish area, a butcher, a bakery and a dry-goods area. Plus, scattered among them all are restaurants.
So come along.
Here we are walking through cases of sweets and cases of cold items, such as sliced meats, fresh pasta and dairy products, like these cheeses:
From there you pass through the fishmonger, and into the salumeria. Here you can order cured meats and cheeses to go or for lunch:
Heading to the left, or rather toward 23rd Street, from the salumeria, you find the produce section:
And if you wrap around that and head back to the center of the market, you’re in the fish restaurant and the fresh pasta station.
The crowds were thickening and we decided at this point that we’d better snag a table for lunch. To get a table, you go to one of these “seating points.”
We were entertained by watching the kitchen as we ate:
First, they brought some lovely bread in a paper bag:
We ordered two courses. First, for Greg, the smoked fish of the day:
This looks like an ordinary codfish. But it’s smoked, so the pieces do not flake. The consistency is flaky, but not moist. And it tastes just like bacon. Brilliant.
My first course was the crudo sampler.
Lightly dressed with olive oil and citrus, and cracked pepper. All were lovely and fresh, but this one in the front, with the seaweed and radish garnish, wasn’t cut well — rather a lot of sinew. The others, though, were like cutting through butter.
For our second courses, Greg got the zuppe de pesce:
It was so full of flavor, and had this crouton dressed up like pan de tomate, the Spanish tapa where you spread tomatoes on top of bread:
I got the grilled calamari. The center “body” parts had great texture, but I found the tentacles a bit mealy. Not sure what happened there. But cutting a bite of the center tubes, then piling some bitter salad on top was a great pleasure:
After lunch, more shopping. First, the fresh pasta counter. Guess what we bought?!
Yes, that’s right folks. A black truffle and some tagliatelle. So guess what’s for Sunday Night Supper at the farm? Yay.
Other pastas available at the fresh pasta station:
Watching people buy fresh pasta is the entertainment for this table here:
And then we head over to the butcher:
For a special holiday celebration?
Next to the butcher are the dry goods, such as jarred olives, olive oil, dried pastas and other pantry items:
Cool shopping cart, huh?
“I would say this one is more fruity, ma’am.”
Through those olive oils, you can peek to see another one of the restaurants:
The pizza joint, where the wait was 40 minutes:
Next to that is the bread station:
Now we head back to the salumeria:
Oh, raw cow cheese with truffle? Sure, let’s make it an all-truffle meal:
In praise of the pig.
After our shopping, we head back for a gelato and a coffee. I got hazelnut (amazing) and a macchiato:
Greg got cappuccino — also amazing:
Then we headed back through the hall to check out.
And somehow, we made out only spending $100 — truffle included. Oh, and then there was lunch. And yes, they catch you with the wine shop next door, too.
So yes, we loved Eataly. It was a little confusing at first, but fun to explore. Once you have your bearings, it’s great to meander around and browse and buy a little of this, a little of that.
And in the end, I would say Eataly is just close enough to come visit, but far enough away to keep me from going bankrupt. We can’t wait to go back, sharp elbows and patience in tow.