There’s a magical place in the Flat Iron district, just a stone’s throw from the building that gives the district its name. Part grocery store, part cooking school, part coffee bar, part restaurant, total foodie experience. I don’t remember the first time I heard about Eataly — it may have been on an episode of The Chew, although I feel like I’d heard of it earlier. Regardless, it had gone immediately on my bucket list.
Eataly is 40,000+ square feet of an Italian food lover’s dream. 2 caffes, 7 restaurants, fresh produce, and imported Italian goods – surprises around every corner. When our taxi deposited us outside its doors on 5th Avenue, we decided to explore the place before sitting down to eat an early-ish lunch. We wandered around the imported candies and cookies, reminiscing, oohing and ahhing. Then we realized we still had about 30,000 square feet to see.
It is an open layout, for the most part, with the restaurants lacking walls and flowing freely into the market areas that supply their ingredients. Fresh bread was baking and ready to be eaten as panini. Beautiful cheese displayed in cases; salami ready to be cut; pasta being rolled out before our very eyes.
I hadn’t really researched the place, so it was a pleasant surprise to find out that the restaurants were specialized … Panini was the sandwich-to-go counter, La Pizza & La Pasta served- you guessed it – Il Pesce had a seafood-dominant menu, etc.
The pizza/pasta restaurant was pretty full, and I was pretty hungry. The girls told me it was my choice — but how could one choose? Everything looked so good. Could I come to Eataly and not eat pasta?
Yes. We decided on Le Verdure. A restaurant specializing in vegetables. I could get pasta elsewhere. But a menu starring vegetables?
There was gnocchi and salads and cannelloni and farro… bruschetta and soup and risotto… Our waitress brought warm fresh bread wrapped in a cute little paper bundle and we drooled over the menu. I finally decided on the wild hive polenta with parsnips, garlic, parmigiano reggiano and butter.
After lunch we browsed a little more — it seemed the place would never end. Fresh flowers, strange vegetables we had never seen before, cookbooks, and craft beer. Our minds were swimming.
We all wanted coffee– how could we not? Not only were we in an Italian market, we had been up since dawn. I had originally wanted gelato (surprise surprise), but I was pretty full from lunch and coffee seemed a better choice. There were two caffe- we opted for the one that served only straight-forward espresso, partly because there was no line. There was something beautifully simple about the little espresso bar that only served single espresso, double espresso, or macchiato — which (contrary to our odd American Starbucks ways) means “spotted” — espresso with a touch of milk.
With a glance to our watches, we decided to start our hike up Broadway. We figured we’d stretch our legs a little, walk north for awhile, and if necessary, hail a cab. A mile later, we were still walking; the snow in our faces, the crowd thickening.
Nine hours down. Our wonderful day wasn’t even half over.