Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Me and Mario Down By The Schoolyard

If you’ve spent any time on the Cheeseburger fan page, you know that I had been eagerly anticipating the opening of Eataly, the 50,000 square foot Italian food mecca in New York City. The first U.S. location, Eataly was brought to you courtesy of Bastianich & Co.

Eataly is broken up into various sections, each with its own market and restaurant. The front area starts with a Lavazza coffee bar and leads into a gelato bar. You can buy chocolates and various confections, sit and enjoy the people watching and an espresso. As you move toward the back, the Panini bar meets the cheese and cured meats area. This is the point you think you've just found heaven but you're only at heaven's summer home. There's something larger and even more grand awaiting you.

My eyes got huge while perusing the seafood, beef, pasta, vegetable and bakery areas. Oh my god, there’s even a wine bar. Having heard about their in-house vegetable butcher, we decided to have lunch at Le Verdure. The nice thing about dining in is that you have to check in at a kiosk and from there you are seated. After ordering a bottle of wine, we ordered the Zuppa di verdure, raw vegetable salad and a combination plate containing a rice salad, soup and caponata. All beautifully presented, colorful and what flavors! Oh, how far we've come, from eating grey canned green beans to perfectly cooked, bright vegetable soup! Or how about heirloom tomatoes, lightly dressed in a lemon citronette? Clearly, the vegetable butcher means business.

After lunch, we shopped each area; stopping for salumi, porchetta, fine Italian chocolates, pasta sauce and baby vegetables. Dried pasta for miles, beautiful packages of candies, aged vinegars, Italian beers. There's no end to the fun you could have and spend a pretty penny in the process. After chatting with a manager who told us about La Scuola, led by Dean Lidia Bastianich, plans were made to check out an upcoming cooking class. A rooftop beer garden is also in the works, making Eataly an all encompassing culinary mecca. 

A fun highlight of the trip was seeing Mr. "4 stars" Batali in the store when we arrived. He spotted me across the room, complimented me on the new leggings and insisted on cooking a private lunch. If you ask him about it, you get a completely different version of the story. Whatever Mario.

Eataly NYC