Thursday, September 9, 2010

Eataly is insane

To celebrate his last weekend in town before moving to the West Coast, BL and I checked out Eataly for a Saturday evening meal. And let me tell you this: it is INSANE. Don't go there if you're looking for a relaxing meal, or a relaxing... anything. I honestly think it would be the coolest place on earth if the rest of earth's humanity weren't there with you at the same time; currently, it's just too freakin' crowded to be a fun place to be.

For the uninitiated, basically Eataly is like a huge Italian market. There are areas to buy produce, cheese, pasta, bread, imported Italian products, fish, charcuterie, wine, etc. etc. etc. for ever and ever Amen. Some pictures of the madness are below:

The first stall as you enter: heirloom tomatoes

Fruit. Prices are comparable to Whole Foods

There are big gathering areas with high tables where people are eating cheese and drinking wine. In general, most people are wandering around the market with a beer or glass of wine in their hands-- very Italian

The pastry case, already somewhat picked over before our dinner

BL and I wanted dinner, so I waited in an interminable line and was lucky enough (dodging a 45-minute wait) to snag seats in their Verdure restaurant. By restaurant I really mean "area of tables in the middle of the floor"; you're not really shielded from the other shoppers, who are rushing past you pushing their futuristic plastic baskets. Rather, you're kind of sitting there, eatin' some food, in the middle of the loud, frenzied morass of humanity.

Anyway, the service is friendly and relatively prompt. Verdure, not surprisingly, focuses on vegetables, so we ordered some vegetable dishes. BL went with the pesto lasagna, which was pretty rich and delightful, and the bruschetta, which was "some of the best he's ever had." I stole bites of each, and I verify that the tomato-basil bruschetta was actually pretty stellar.

Pretty, and hearty, and cheesy

The bruschetta of the day-- fresh and vibrant and not too oily

My choice was slightly less successful: the pinzimonio citronette, basically shaved raw vegetables covered in an oily lemon vinaigrette. It was crunchy. And bland. And a pitifully small portion for $11. I left almost hungrier than I had been when I'd arrived, if that's even possible.

My sad concoction

Oh, and there's bread, but no olive oil or salt. Ah-kay.

Straight-up, slightly-stale-around-the-edges carbs

We paid and headed through the throngs to check out the dessert offerings. The pastry case had been pretty much cleared out, so we figured we'd have better luck at the gelato bar. Not really. All the good flavors were gone; I tried a taste of the fior de latte, the apricot, and the fig. All were "meh." Disappointed, we left the market to seek our fortunes (desserts) elsewhere.

All in all, Eataly is simply overwhelming. Everything is larger than life, including Mario Batali and Lidia Bastianich, both of whom were roaming the market, snapping photos, and investigating the goings-on while BL and I were there (which is impressive. Glad to see they're on the ground). I wouldn't necessarily recommend the meal we had there; it was overpriced and not especially relaxing. But I would recommend that you stop in at Eataly just to have the experience. Perhaps go at an off-time if you can to try to dodge the crowds, pick up some reasonably-priced produce and cheese, and have a picnic in Madison Park. Now THAT would be a good idea.
(for Eataly in general)
200 Fifth Avenue at 23rd Street

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