“Let’s go to Eataly!” he said. He has stayed in the Americas for the last 15 years or so, with enough travel and food experience around the world to be termed a global citizen. So, when he suggests that my trip to NY won’t hold good, if I do not walk and/or dine at Eataly (Pronounced how you are read it!), I simply agree to it…presuming it was Little Italy, he was referring to!
I smirked, thinking he was showing off his Mediterranean accent, complete with the lisp! Turns out, it wasn’t Little Italy, but the place is actually called Eataly, as in “eat” meets “Italy” equals “Eataly,” or maybe it’s the forced way of getting Americans to pruh-nunce stuff right!
Welcome to Lidia, Joe and Batali’s Eataly!
The multimillion dollar project cooked up and dreamed by culinary bigwigs Mario Batali, Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and her son Joe Bastianich projects opulence, style and class in a way only they could have possibly imagined. Walking into Eataly is like turning up at the most incredible carnival of the year where there’s a trampoline and a water slide and a merry-go-round and a bounce house…and everything is edible.
Eataly is a seriously intense celebration of food and you can feel the dash of grown-up adrenalin against the buzz of noise that is basically laughter and random conversation. The place is essentially every food lover’s paradise. Eataly doesn’t just allow you to pleasure your senses, it also allows you as part of their mission to have a peek at the everyday philosophy of an Italian dining table. Live, to eat. Simply put!
And it is no surprise that I was led to this place, as a must-visit in the checklist of things-to-eat, while in Manhattan. It’s a massive indoor market, which sells high-quality products purchased from local farmers, fishermen, butchers, bakers and formaggio vendors with more than a handful of restaurants you can eat at. And the most incredible part is that all the food served in its many restaurants is made from ingredients sold in the store so you can actually try your hand at the stuff you just ate.
The store contains all the exotic ingredients you hear celebrity chefs rolling their tongues and suggesting, on TV shows! “Now rub a little Olio al Tartufo into the steak,” and you have no idea what Nigella Lawson just said …so you Google “tartufo” and find out that your steak rub of the truffle oil is going to cost $275 per lb plus shipping and handling because you don’t live in The Hamptons…nor in a little town off the Tuscan valley!
The summer evening brought us to Gramercy. Against the backdrop of the monumentally famous Flatiron building and the Madison Square Garden stood this majestic four-story wonderland of food. The Eataly experience is a little overwhelming at first; you are almost nervous with the amount and quantity of sensory delicacies that you see strewn all around you! But, after ‘hanging in’ there for a while, get trampled in the playground of foodies, you eventually start to feel a little more relaxed!
The walk around to get a feel for and figure out exactly how Eataly worked almost makes you lusty with hunger. You’re welcomed with a smart espresso bar as the space opens into seven “restaurants,” numerous food stations and a full “piazza” with a raw bar, fresh-cut prosciutto and marble-top tables. But this is not the Italy most Americans imagine—the Italy of quaint Tuscan towns and blooming pushy grandmothers! This is the Italy of Ferrari, Gucci, Vespas and steel-stilettos. The kinds Milan is famous for!
You almost feel as if you are walking into a pristine farmer’s market, where all the vegetables have been hand-picked that day at the peak of ripeness, the eggplants have been polished to a sparkling shine by the farmers, and the avocados have the perfect amount of give under your finger tips.
Eataly is a wine bar, a gourmet cheese shop, a pizzeria, a fish market, a butcher (and vegetable butcher!), a cafe, a farmer’s market, a gelato stand, a super market, your local gourmet grocery, a meeting place, and a trendy, iconic New York City event, all rolled up in to one. Pop in, or stay for hours. Have a quick gelato or espresso, or linger for hours over your glass of chilled Sauvignon.
Make your own judgments. Watch people. Whether you love it or hate it, I dare say you will be entertained, and leave feeling well-fed and spellbound! And just to offer a small amuse-bouche, (and that’s also a new term I learned this visit!)here’s a quick peak in photographs from inside the cavernous depths of this trattoria, from my own recent adventure to Eataly.
Every kind of fruit imaginable is laid at your feet here. There are varieties of apples I have never heard of, fruits that look like plums with tiger stripes but go by inaudible names… There are sections dedicated to jarred Italian specialty items like olive oils, tomato sauces and antipasti ,dairy, cookies and snacks, tea and coffee, chocolate, fruits and jams and Italian water and beer. And oh,salami, as we Indians call it is actually ‘salumi‘! Then there is the ‘Vegetable-Butcher’ who will wash, cut, clean the vegetables you purchase at no extra cost. How fantastic!
If you haven’t had your palette and platter full yet, there is a full-fledged travel agency at your disposal. An in-house travel agency that will organize trips to visit Italian food and wine producers.
Walking through these aisles is an education in itself. Especially, when it comes to food and places involved with it, I set a certain standard of my expectations. But Eataly completely lived up to my (rather high but qualitatively uncalibrated) expectations. It’s a worthwhile place to stop in for some quick fresh produce, or to spend a lazy afternoon browsing, or even to grab some wine and cheese while catching up with friends or ..just to satiate the food-soul in you.
While I was being driven back to my cousin’s pad I realized how much I loved the idea of combining supermarket shopping with the chance to grab a bite to eat at the same time. How revolutionary! How very European! How very non-Indian! But as much as I loved my leisurely stroll, I’m glad there isn’t an Eataly near where I live in Bangalore; I could easily blow a paycheck or two on all they had to offer. Ultimately, the incredible assortment of high quality ingredients coupled with the sheer excitement in typical upscale Manhattan style is really…well, sexy.
So, when everything is so Eataly-an, I would simply say… Mangier Bene in Stile!
Eataly – 200 5th Avenue, (near 23rd Street). Gramercy, New York, NY 10010. 212-229-2560