It’s spring break! Though, I have to say, spring break in grad school isn’t exactly what I remember it as when I was an undergrad….sunshine and cocktails on the beach? Not for this grad student. Since I couldn’t escape to somewhere exotic I decided to visit my old stomping grounds…NYC. And as such a food lover, of course my weekend was planned around where I would eat!
After living there for over thee years, I find it hard to not go back to my favorite neighborhood spots. But since I don’t get the opportunity to head back there often, I decided I should try some place new. I’ve been hearing the buzz about Mario Batali’s new venture, Eataly; I had to check it out.
Eataly is a new way of dining. Built on the idea of simple Italian cooking with few ingredients, the concept was devised by four partners, including Batali and Lidia Bastianich (of Lidia’s Italy), in conjunction with Slow Food. Eataly combines an Italian marketplace with 5 restaurants. Each restaurant is dedicated to a specific food: Verdure (vegetables), Pesce (fish), La Pizza, La Pasta, and Manzo (meat). There is also a café and espresso bar as well as a wine bar.
All of the restaurants are meant to showcase one specific food type using simple, fresh ingredients.
As we entered Eataly I was immediately overwhelmed, excited, and unsure where to begin! Luckily Allison, who was with me and had been here once before, was able to guide me through. She suggested checking out all the markets and menus before deciding where we’d eat. It was Saturday night at 8p so navigating the crowds proved a little difficult, but it added to the experience!
After quickly walking past all of the scrumptious looking pastries and gelato at the espresso bar, we came to the first restaurant: Manzo. An extensive menu, typical upscale Italian restaurant style with Antipasti, Primi, and Secondi. Entrees ranged from $18-$40 a plate. There is also a $90 tasting menu.
We continued through the maze of people to the fish market and La Pesce; Allison had eaten here previously so we had already decided that we wouldn’t eat here, but I had to check out the menu. If I get a chance to come back, I will eat here!
Next to La Pesce sits La Verdure along with a beautiful, colorful produce market. This menu had the fewest options, though everything sounded delicious.
Our final destination was La Pizza and La Pasta; the two restaurants share a dining space. How can you pass up Pizza and Pasta at an Italian restaurant? We couldn’t! The prices were right as well – between $12-$19. Of course, everyone had the same idea so there was an hour wait. No problem – off the wine bar!
The wine bar, mindfully placed the center of all of the restaurants, features tall marble top tables (typical Batali style – reminded me of Otto in the west village) along with two small bars plus a cheese and meat shop.
I was impressed by the wine list, which featured over 20 wines by the glass. Prices range from $8-$25/glass with most between $9-$12. Additional bottles are also available. I am not terribly confident in my Italian wine ordering skills so I decided to ask the bartender for a recommendation (especially since my two go-to Italian grapes were not on the list!). After describing to him what I like he gave both Allison and I a taste of the Barolo, which was reasonably priced ($9), drinkable with pizza or pasta, and tasty. I always like when a bartender doesn’t try to automatically serve you the most expensive glass on the list. It shows me he’s really listening to what kind of wine I’m looking for.
Allison and I share a great love for red wine and good cheese. When we lived together (with our third roommate who also shared this love) I think we had the best-stocked cheese drawer of any Chelsea apartment! We often hosted wine and cheese parties on our rooftop so we couldn’t help but reminisce those great times over a cheese and charcuterie (meat) plate. We were promptly served perfectly crusty on the outside but soft in the middle Italian bread along with 5 cheeses (chef’s choice of the day) and several different salumi’s (Italian meats). Lavender honey, apricot preserves, and fig jam were perfect accompaniments served on the side.
We couldn’t have been happier!
When it was time for dinner, we wandered back over to the bustling La Pizza/Pasta area. An adorable Italian waiter greeted us, shared a few specials, and even engaged in some short banter with Allison who was trying to practice her Italian. At 9p there was still a long list of people waiting to eat and he didn’t rush us one bit (nice surprise in NYC where servers are often trying to move as many people through as possible). Dinner was a tough decision but we both settled on Bucatini dishes. Mine with tomatoes, onions and guanciale and hers with olive oil, parmesan and black pepper; an Italian classic!
My pasta tasted like Italy. There is no other way to describe it but simple and delicious. It brought me back to the meals I ate on the Amalfi Coast several years ago. This was worth the hour-long wait. They certainly lived up to their motto: Eataly is Italy!
As a note Eataly doesn’t take reservations but if there is a wait, there is plenty to keep you occupied if there is a wait!
- your food and fitness friend