June 17, 2024

Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich’s Italian food emporium, Eataly, has to be the oddest resto-market combination in the city.  Sprawling over 50,000 square feet in the Flatiron District, it’s a grocery store, gelateria, pizzeria, macellum, bakery, and handful of restaurants rolled into one. (There’s a wine shop, too, with it’s own separate entrance.) As visually appealing as a funhouse – and equally confusing at first – it’s a sensory overload of pasta, olive oil, cured meats, and  Italian specialties tailor-made for the hungry shopper.  Anyone familiar with Batali’s Otto will recognize the stand-up salumeria, where you can order a healthy board of salume and a bottle of wine at a reasonable price without the hassle of sitting down to a formal meal.  I should put formal in inverted commas, however, as the fish, pizza, and pasta eating stations appear to have all the casual appeal of a food court at the mall.  Having finished a generous snack of meat and cheese – plus a trio of crostini topped with oil-cured tuna, cannellini beans, and spaghetti squash, respectively -  I still had a glass half-full of Montepulciano.  So I did what everyone else seemed to be doing and took my drink, grabbed a basket, and went shopping.  Suddenly Eataly went from being more than a market, more than just another foodie clusterfuck – it became a cocktail party.  Trust me: it’s much more fun to talk to the cheese monger about the provenance of fresh ricotta when you’ve got a drink in your hand.

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