Monday, March 14, 2011


Today I finally made it to Eataly, the Italian food court/supermarket in Madison Square. This place opened recently to much acclaim, and it really is a great addition to the culinary scene in NYC.

Like Italy itself, Eataly is exciting, beautiful, and totally disorganized.

There are multiple entrances. You can enter either on 23rd street, which leads into the main supermarket part of the store, or you can enter on 5th Avenue, which takes you into the gelateria. We went in via 23rd street, and the moment you enter, you encounter boxes of Italian cookies stacked on the side walls. Here you can also pick up a big basket or a small cart for your shopping convenience. When you enter the store proper, you come upon a sumptuous grocery market, with beautiful fruits and vegetables on display. Here you can get the basics, along with exotic mushrooms. Going through this section, you find yourself in a mad scene. Walking around, you find a ham counter. A cheese counter. A pork counter. A meat counter. A bread counter. Then there are rows and rows and rows and rows and rows of pastas, sauces, vinegars, olive oils, preserves, more cheeses, more meats, more everything! The food ranges from the modest and modestly priced to the more extravagant and expensive. There's also a section where you can buy guienue Italian cooking wares along with cookbooks. 

And this is just where you can shop.

Eataly also has multiple restaurants. The one I went to is called La Pizza and Pasta where, shockingly enough, they serve only pizza and pasta. But of course they also sell delicious wine by the glass and they pour it at your table. There are other restaurants, ranging from the modest to the more expensive, and you can check them all out on the Eataly website -- I would exhaust myself if I tried to describe them all.

In fact, exhausting is what best describes Eataly. There is just so much food you can buy, so many places you can eat, so much stuff you can get, that you can't possibly check it all out in one visit. I didn't get to spend much time at the coffee bar or in the bakery, nor did I check out Eataly Vino, the wine store that has its own separate entrance on 23rd street. But this place is really a trip, great experience, the kind of place that makes you grateful to live in NYC. 

If you love Italian food, then you must check out Eataly. Just make sure you wear comfortable shoes and give yourself a lot of time. 

Two postscripts:

1. The supermarkets and restaurants at Eataly blend into each other. You'll be walking through some aisles of food and suddenly find yourself in an area surrounded by tables and chairs and waiters. If you want to sit down, don't! Make sure you find (and it can be a little tricky), the host or hostess who will put you on a list. This is a very popular, crowded place and you'll probably have to wait 20 minutes for a table. Probably best to put your name down, do some browsing, and then come back when your table is ready.

2. Eataly was createad by PBS cooking host Lidia Bastianich whose appearance on WNYC last year with Christopher Walken I blogged about in September. This woman is a culinary genius.

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