Consider it: a 50,000-square-foot temple to the world of Italian food.
That's what New York City's Eataly was designed to be. The shopping mall devoted to all things food is a joint project of culinary luminaries like Mario Batali and Lidia Bastianich, and is as much an experience as it is a place to shop and eat. Around any corner at the Fifth Avenue complex, one can find ingredients imported from all over the globe (not just Italy), cooking demonstrations and counters that are serving prepared meals.
Day Tripper Digest
Estimated Travel Time: About two hours, depending on traffic at crossings.
Why it’s Worth the Trip: You don’t have to be a “foodie” to appreciate all that Eataly has to offer, but more than just being a place to eat and buy food products, the venue has an atmosphere even those who aren’t inclined to cooking can appreciate (and several teaching opportunities for those who are, even if they're really, really bad at it).
You’ll Probably Get Hungry: We expect you’ll want to eat at Eataly, naturally, but where? The Eataly restaurants include Le Verdure (vegetable), Il Manzo (meat), Il Pesce (fish), La Pasta (pasta), La Pizza (pizza), I Salumi e I Formaggi (salumi and cheese), and Il Crudo (raw bar). The pizzas served at La Pizza as well as those that will be available to-go at Eataly’s 24th Street window are all made in the traditional Neapolitan style.
The rooftop beer garden, La Birreria, serves a range of beers year-round as well as a variety of pizzas and sausages. Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head in Delaware, Teo Musso of Birra Baladin in Piedmont, and Leonardo di Vincenzo of Birra del Borgo in Rome are the collaborating brewmasters and have worked with Eataly’s owners to create three brews exclusive to La Birreria. The brewing tanks are set 30 feet from where diners sit under the skyline and stars.
Lavazza Café serves authentic espressos, cappuccinos and the best coffee specialties of the Italian tradition. Italian gelato and pastries made fresh daily by Luca Montersino, Eataly’s talented pastry chef, are be served.
While You’re in the Area: You might need to work some of this food off, or make some room prior to your visit, so try some outdoor activities at nearby Madison Square Park or Bryant Park. If it is still too cold outside for that, enjoy some inside activities with vigorous shopping at Origins Health and Beauty or MAC Cosmetics, indulge your inner Rick Baker with special effects and makeup equipment at Abracadabra Superstore, or get sent to the penalty box for a quarter for high-sticking with merchandise you bought from Westside Skate and Stick.
Eataly, located at 200 Fifth Ave. near Madison Square Park, is owned by a partnership including Batali, Bastianich and Joe Bastianich, a judge on the Fox Network program MasterChef. Since it opened with a large amount of press coverage on Aug. 31, 2010, the location has become a destination for food lovers. Two weeks after opening, there were still lines extending down Fifth Avenue to get into the store.
Eataly was originally planned as a smaller venue near Rockefeller Center, but the dream was far too big to fit the location.
“Eataly is a market that in its 50,000 square feet encapsulates some of the best Italian products in a congenial and very socially Italian setting,” said Lidia Bastianich, whose culinary world consists not only of the store but more than a decade of television on PBS, various cookbooks, and several well-regarded restaurants like Felidia, Del Posto, Esca, and Becco in Manhattan.
When asked what the overriding goal of Eataly was, Lidia said that it was to be like a true Italian market, a one-stop shop, and an education center all at the same time.
“It is like pulling together the best of Italian values and food practices under one roof,” she said.
So, okay, maybe a place as wholly committed to the sights, sounds, and smells of Italian cooking was a mean thing to spring on you so soon after New Year’s Day, but think about this: Unless your resolution was to visit the markets of Tuscany this summer, you likely could not get closer to the food and feel of region than you can at Eataly. Think of it as an exploration of your horizons and not an expansion of your waistline.
For Bastianich, there was one goal to be met and the shop has done so beyond her expectations: “One could very well smell, taste, eat, drink, shop and feel like being in Italy when in Eataly.”