Sunday, December 18, 2011

Leave your passport at home and head to Eataly

I had heard mixed reviews from friends who had visited Eataly in New York City, so I was excited to check it out for myself. Evan and I met our friends Kathy and Ernie in Times Square and took the R train downtown. I was expecting to walk up from the subway and see something equivalent to the Magic Kingdom, but there it was, just another building with modest signage indicating that we had arrived at our destination.
But when we entered the market, I felt like I was a kid again in Disney World. Only it was Italy! There was a lot of "oohing and ahhing" going on as we walked down the aisle and marveled at the displays of products and eateries lined along the wall. Kathy and Ernie have been to Italy several times so there was a lot of reminiscing going on: "Remember this is the cheese we had in Parma?" and "This is the olive oil they had at that restaurant in Tuscany." Evan and I have never been so there was a lot, "This is amazing. We have to get to Italy" going on. (I think he got the hint.)

We walked around a few minutes checking out the pasta, produce, seafood, all so overwhelmingly fresh. We grabbed a glass of wine and watched the patrons at the marble top standing tables tables delighting in their cheese and fruit platters. We watched the "mozzarella artisans" make the fresh stuff, with whole milk only, right before our eyes.

Kathy and Ernie headed over to the wine pairing and enjoyed a glass of Asti Spumante with chunks of sharp parmigiana.
As soon as we arrived we headed straight to the reservation desk for Birreria to put our name down. They told us it would be about a half hour and they would send a text when our table was ready. They were right on target. We took our last sips of wine and headed up the elevator to the rooftop restaurant and brewery. We ate under the night sky, protected from the wind and cold by the retractable roof. It must be awesome when the weather is nice and the roof is down.

Our waiter Peter explained the menu's Italian/German influence and for beer suggested the Victory Prima Pils, a "snappy, peppery pilsner." Evan and Ernie were sold. Kathy and I stuck to wine and had a lovely red made with Sangiovese grapes. We ordered the marinated olives to start. It was a nice assortment and just the right amount for the four of us. Peter also brought us some wonderful bread and olive oil for dipping to start. For dinner we split three meals: the grilled portobello mushrooms with piquillo pepperonata and arugla; the costoletta di maiale con bomba (pork chop with fried fingerling potatoes, roasted onions and Calabrian "bomba" vinaigrette); and the stripped bass special with couscous. It was all delicious.

For dessert we headed back downstairs for cappuccino and gelato. But before we did, Peter took us behind the scenes to show us how the beer is brewed (see videos below).

We were lucky to grab a table downstairs across from the Gelateria and enjoyed some of the best gelato I've ever had. (I went for a scoop of chocolate and a scoop of coconut on a waffle cone. Yum!) I also stuck my spoon in everyone else's cups and tasted the hazelnut and espresso. Next visit I'm trying the pistachio, for which they get the nuts from Bronte, Sicily.

It's definitely worth a visit to Eataly. Yes, it's crowded; yes, you'll probably have to wait for a table at one of the many eateries; yes, the checkout lines are long. But go with all that in mind and no restrictions on your time, and you're sure to enjoy the experience. Go mangia!

(For more photos of Diana's trip to Eataly, go to 

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