Made in Italy
Local and artisanal
This place spoils me.
When Eataly opened (almost) three years ago, I immediately became obsessed with the place. On walks uptown, I’d go out of my way to pass through the Flatiron district to embark on the Eataly maze, dodging a chaotic mass of people with shopping carts or glasses of wine in hand gazing at the piles of imported italian products. Each visit I’d discover something new about the place, and like most customers, I just couldn’t get enough of it.
Fast forward to today and now I am an official Eatalian as an Eataly intern, and I couldn’t be happier to be an official part of the internal team. I appreciate the quality of the food and the constant orchestration that makes the whole place sing more than I ever did before. So, in honor of my time thus far, here are (only some) of my favorite things Eataly has to offer that aren’t as widely known as they should be.
1. La Scuola: Eataly has an amazing executive chef, Alex Pilas, that combined with a fully dedicated events team, a beautiful demo space (which is a restaurant by day), and dean Lidia Bastianich, make for an incredible cooking education program. Classes are relatively affordable, hands off (which I prefer) and more often than not include plenty of food and accompanying alcohol. I recently took the Summer Risotto class, which for $100 provides three glasses of wine, delicious house made bread, a four course meal, a detailed cooking demo, and a cooking booklet to bring home. At 90 minutes classes are relatively short, which I welcome considering I tend to get antsy sitting still.
2. Eataly Walking Tour: If you’re overwhelmed by the space like most people, I highly recommend the $35 Eataly walking tour, where in just two hours you are given an educational walk through the store that includes samplings of almost every individual counter. On my walk, I tasted fresh mozzarella, shishito peppers, jicama, fresh baked bread, parmesan with aged balsamic, homemade pasta, a slice of pizza, gelato, and hot chocolate. A steal for the price, and perfect if you want to become an expert at navigating the space.
3. The Panini Counter: Oh my lord, the best sandwiches ever, which is probably why the line curls around the store at lunch time. The bread is made fresh in-house every day. The meats and cheeses are imported or local. The ingredients are so high quality that each sandwich needs only 2-3 elements to make it really stand out. My favorite is the soppressata and provolone or the simple caprese with house made mozzarella. But on cold days, the hot sandwiches made out of fresh pizza dough are just the thing to get.
4. The Focaccia: If you want to experience Eataly’s quintessential homemade-ness without spending an arm and a leg, get a $1.80-$3.80 slice of olive oil crisped focaccia. Salty, crunchy, earth-shatteringly flavorful bread. It smells of Italy.
5. The Walnut Loaf: So I love bread. Sue me. But this particular loaf is on another level. Buy a loaf, slice it up, and freeze what you don’t use for toast (with butter) in the morning.
6. La Piazza: By far the best menu of any of the 7 restaurants in the space because it’s got a little of everything, and I actually like eating standing. In the middle of your Eataly tour, stop here for a cheese plate, some salumi, and maybe some crostini. and definitely taste the squid if it’s on the special menu that day. Caramelized simply with citrus and oil, it’s absolutely incredible.
7. The Gelato: Ok, so if you’ve been here you know about this, but it really doesn’t get much better. Eataly’s pastry chefs use the local farm milk and eggs that they sell to create this creamy concoction, and each bite just leaves you wanting more. Get the salted caramel and pistachio if you want my ideal situation, but all the flavors warrant recognition.
8. Birreria: Summer or winter, the rooftop beer garden is the ultimate, picturesque setting for a brew and some mushrooms. It tends to get crowded at peak beer sipping hours, but in my opinion, the al fresco dining experience is worth the wait.
9. The Butcher Counter: Let’s be honest, every “counter” at Eataly is artisanal and serves a better product than almost anywhere in New York. The pasta counter gets me every time. But the dark horse of the bunch is the meat counter, somewhat hidden behind the dry pasta, outside the central piazza. You can be sure that all meat is antibiotic and hormone free, and sourced from sustainable local farms that (Eataly confirms first-hand) treat their animals humanely. I never thought raw meat could actually stir my appetite. Go for the sausage or the ready-made burger patties for an affordable, delicious and easy meal.
There are so many dozens of other reasons this place is fabulous and as popular as it is. Every accolade it has received is well deserved. It’s cliche, but in order to believe you gotta come see it. Do yourself a favor and reserve an afternoon to get lost in a sea of Italian and local goodness.