Italy is Eataly! Or so says the banner outside the door to the newly opened Mario Batali & Joe Bastianich’s Italian gourmet food store and market.
I have not read many reviews of Eataly. Maybe I should have, but anyway. First, I would like to take a moment to comment on the name. Eataly? Really? I mean, I get it. But does anyone else find it kinda….I dunno…stupid? I was half expecting (hoping) the meat department would be called Meataly, and then the bakery could be called Treataly. Oh – and the bread section – Wheataly! Ok, you get the idea.
The place is enormous and comprehensive – it includes sections for meats (cured and otherwise), cheese, wine, pasta, bread, baked goods, gelato, fun, imported packaged foods from Italy, a Panini station, and even kitchen gadgets and cookbooks.
The produce section is up front when you first enter the shop. It’s very nicely laid out – it has the feel of a fancy farmer’s market with baskets heaped with eggplants and apples and little garden signs detailing produce names and prices. They have some fancier items, like white and purple figs, lesser-known mushrooms, and those tiny little grapes.
Once you walk towards the center of the store things get a little more confusing. Eataly’s solution to this is to use signposts to direct you to your desired destination. I still got confused. Probably because I’m slow, but really, there was stuff everywhere and I got overwhelmed.
I was also hungry. And if you know me, you know how I get when I’m hungry. Cranky. And I’m hungry pretty much all the time, so….Anyway, I was looking for lunch, preferably something relatively healthy and pre-made (because I didn’t have the patience to put anything together myself at that moment). There aren’t a lot of pre-made offerings except for baked goods, gelato, and Panini. I settled on a Panini. I ordered a hot Panini with prosciutto, spicy peppers, and Mizuna. There were only two hot and two cold offerings at the Panini station. I don’t know if this is good or bad, I’m just sayin’.
I knew this would not be enough food for me, so I wandered around checking out some other stuff. I settled on some white figs (which are really green), a Honeycrisp apple, some imported chips from Italy (of course – Chipaly!!), and a tiny pot of honey (I should note, I’m a sucker for fancy-pants gourmet stores and food packaging. I am a designer, after all.) As I was wandering around the isles, I overheard many astounded comments from other patrons regarding the prices of the food. It is expensive. My whole order came to around $20. Yikes. But it’s for science, people. And my readers – all 12 of them (readership is up)! I’m not really going to comment much on the cost of things, other than to agree it’s pricey, and suggest you should prepare yourself for that if you are going to shop there.
I perused some of the other sections including the cheeses (nice selection), the cookbooks (not extensive, but some good choices), and the kitchen gadget area, which I found a little tchotchke-ish and overrun with Alessi-designed implements.
Eataly really does seem to want to impress that they are authentic Italian. In fact, most of the signage is in both English and Italian. I suppose vacationing Italians will flock here in droves and need proper instruction as to the whereabouts of the Parmesano Reggiano.
I took my lunch across the street to devour it at one of Madison Square Park’s outdoor tables. The sandwich was good. The bread was fresh and crispy, and I liked the added kick from the spicy peppers. The produce (apple and figs) was fresh – no spores, molds or fungus. And the chips were decent – like the Italian version of tortilla chips.
Un pranzo costoso ma delizioso.
200 5th Ave
New York 10010