May 23, 2013

Eataly (NYC)

Though a lover of LA, if there's one U.S. city I could live in purely for culinary reasons, it would be NYC.  Hold the rotten tomatoes (or applause) for a sec and hear me out.   I live in LA, was raised in LA, and will forever love LA -- it's home.  And with so many varying ethnicities and cultures, what a good home it is!  But maybe because it's so vast, its streets so congested, and parking impossible or overpriced, it's just tougher to eat your way through LA than through NYC.  That said, I have no plans to move to the Big Apple, so "until I see the light," I'll stick with my food tours.  When I was in NYC a few months ago, the first place I hit up was Mario Batali's Eataly.

"Eating is an Agricultural Act."

Eataly is a food market that also has multiple restaurants.  It first opened in Turin, Italy in 2007 and in NYC in 2010.  There're rumors that another location will open in LA soon.  More info on Eataly's history here.

Located at 200 Fifth Ave, Eataly NYC boasts five restaurants: La Piazza, Il Pesce, Le Verdure, La Pizza & La Pasta, and Birreria.  In Italian fashion, the restaurants are located throughout the marketplace to mimic an "al fresco dining" experience.

After learning that the wait for a table at La Pizza & La Pasta would take over an hour on a Monday night (typical?), we put our name down and went upstairs to the rooftop beer garden, Birreria, which thankfully had no wait (atypical?).

Formaggi -- Parmigiano, Asiago Fresco, Ricotta Fresca -- 3 for $11

Salumi -- Sopressata -- Single plate for $11

Birreria also serves salads, sausages, and entrees ranging from grilled portobello mushrooms to grilled lamb chops.  Best of all, there are casks and casks of beer.  There's outdoor patio seating too, which unfortunately I didn't get to take advantage of given the rather uninviting NY weather at the time.

After a quick bite at Birreria, we went back downstairs to La Pizza & La Pasta.  To get a sense of how much I enjoyed the food, let me just say this: For a brief moment, I reverted back to my time in Firenze, where I consumed one of the best pasta dishes in my life.  There wasn't one particular dish that did this for me.  Rather, it was a combination of the rich potato gnocchi, light but pesto-y lasagne, and the perfectly-cooked seafood paccheri.  Paired with several glasses of red wine, everything complemented each other splendidly.  La Stella is technically a pizza, but it's listed as an antipasti and is served in an entree portion.  It was delicious. 

Gnocchi al Ragu di Agnello -- housemade potato gnocchi with braised lam shank ragu -- $19

Pasta Al Forno al Pesto -- Lasagne with pesto, Bechamel sauce, and green beans -- $16

La Stella -- pizza with cherry tomatoe, arugula, shaved Grana Padano fresh basil, and extra virgin olive oil from Sorrento -- $13

Paccheri con Sugo di Mare -- shrimp, calamari, and scallops with tomato, garlic, white wine, and parsley -- $18

Eataly has gotten some bad rap for being overpriced and overhyped.  Maybe there's some truth behind that, but from my one dinner at Birreria and La Pizza & La Pasta, I can confidently say Batali is doing a really good thing there.  For that reason, I can't wait for Eataly to make its LA debut.  Salute!

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Eataly on Urbanspoon

cuisine: Italian
location: Flatiron, NYC
nearest Metro: 23rd St.
websites: { E | yelp | facebook | twitter }
attire: Casual
notes: Don't go here if you're not a fan of long waits or pricier foods.  Go here if you appreciate quality and have an open mind/ heart for Italian food.
other reviews: { NYMag | NYT | Serious Eats | Amuse Bouche }