Monday, December 3, 2012

Exploring Eataly in New York City

Eataly -- best known for its affiliation with Mario Batali and its variety of restaurants -- is a high-end Italian grocer right around the corner from Madison Square Park.

Its New York location opened amid much fanfare in the summer of 2010. Since then, Paul and I have lazily talked about visiting, but it just never happened. Once, on my 30th birthday, we tried to go up to the rooftop bar after celebrating at the nearby Shake Shack. The wait was too long, however. We went home.

In October, we decided to give Eataly another chance. Our wait to get a table at the Gramercy Tavern was going to be 90 minutes to two hours, and we were both hungry. So we walked to the nearby Eataly to see what we could find for an appetizer to our main courses coming later that evening.

Truth be told, Eataly is simply overwhelming. Maybe it was because it was a busy Saturday night, maybe it's because there's just so many places to turn. The food to buy and take home, a la normal grocery store, is sitting right next to the kitchen supplies, is sitting right next to the dozen or so restaurants and dessert eateries.

The entire space is more than 50,000 square feet, according to Wikipedia. We certainly didn't see all of it; we were too hungry. We made a quick round of the space nearest the entry, scanning the restaurants. Each one focuses on a different food: fish, pizza and pasta, and panini, for example. We chose the vegetable-focused restaurant, grabbing a couple of seats at the "bar" instead of the nearby tables. Either way, shoppers were milling about the eaters; a very different experience.

The "bar" area where we ate.

We ordered a plate of fried vegetables, Paul got a beer and we polished off a plate of bread dipped in olive oil while we waited. The food was delicious, and the atmosphere perfect for people watchers. The crowds show that the diners agree that the restaurants are excellent, but when push comes to shove, this really is pretty much just a series of cafeterias in an expensive grocery store.

Eataly isn't a place I'd frequent often, but it was perfect for the time we had to spare.

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