I had heard of Eataly but never really went there, and even when I finally did the first time, it was not on purpose. I had come to the city that weekend to try and get some yarn at the Michael’s store in the Flat Iron District. It was already a tad cloudy by the time I got to Manhattan and thought nothing of the slight drizzle — and then it started pouring when I got out of the subway. (And to think I had actually considered getting an umbrella from the office but thought it wouldn’t be necessary.) So there I was, caught in the midst of a heavy drizzle threatening to turn into a downpour when I found myself on the Fifth Avenue entrance of Eataly.The place was buzzing with a ton of tourists and New Yorkers alike, so depending on what time of the day you go in and what day of the week you choose to visit, be prepared for a throng of people.
Eataly is a marketplace and food gallery of everything Italian. Well, of course, there’s the crepes and the gelato and all that other stuff, but you come here to shop and enjoy the gastronomic delights they have to offer, and be prepared to be ooh and aahh and burp. (Excuse me!)
They have several restaurants which one would do well to reserve seats for ahead, but then there’s the bar seating which is “free for all.” As I was by my loneome self, I gamely found a bar stool and sat and excitedly looked over the menu. I picked La Verdure because it had an almost empty bar seating and was right smack in the middle of the whole marketplace. While I would normally be adventurous when it comes to trying out a new restaurant, I’m also the type who would pick something I know and love and sample how they do it and compare the new adventure of the palate with what I’m familiar with. So I went for the lasagna — the Pasta Al Forno con Funghi (Lasagna with Cremini mushrooms and Bechamel) which was pure pasta heaven! The pasta was paper thin (literally), and the sauce tasty without being too rich. The cremini mushrooms gave it a subtle yet different flavor and the bechamel was a perfect counterpoint to seal in the many flavors. Definitely a ‘must try’ when it’s on the menu — and the seemingly huge portion is really just right because the pasta and sauce have been constructed to sit perfectly together sans the bulk.
I have learned to trust the restaurants to recommend the perfect wine pairing, and while I normally wouldn’t drink with a meal, I thought I would live a little dangerously this time around just to add to the entire food experience. I asked my server for a recommendation and he asked my preference (fruity as against full bodied and strong, I said) and he made a suggestion. Unfortunately, I can’t remember that now but I do recall enjoying it with the food — proving yet again that it pays to ask the experts who know their wine offerings.
I enjoyed my lunch and ate leisurely — with no clock ticking and the rain pouring down now on Manhattan. I finished my lasagna and glass of wine, determined to find a sweet ending to the meal from the dessert counters if not the Nutella Bar which I spied on my way in. There was also Il Gelato and the many counters offering their decadent pastries and cakes, but I chose to go and see where they claimed you can “buy happiness in a jar.”
Be warned that the seating is usually full — and there is almost always a line at the cashier to order. It would help for you to view the menu overhead and make a decision as to what you are thinking of having before making a queu to get your guilty pleasure, lest you risk the ire of the people who are salivating for their own piece of nutella heaven behind you.
It’s basically soft serve ice cream you can either have served in a paper cup or a waffle cone (recommended) with or without nutella (recommended) or you can go for the waffles or crepe (which I had no room for given what I just had for lunch). You can also get your caffeine boost here if you wish, but I usually don’t grab coffee with ice cream, or with anything after noon and it was almost 4pm by the time I got to this point. Crepes and waffles in an Italian cafe? Well, Eataly proudly says “We know crepes are French and waffles are Belgian but Italians make them better!” (I know of one Italian who would proudly proclaim that Italians always do it better! LOL) Isn’t that waffle bowl just yummy? Indulgence well deserved! (I have a confession to make. I have since returned to Eataly for a quick piece of Nutella heaven in a bowl during one of my forays into the Flat Iron district since. Couldn’t resist!)
I would definitely go back another time — with or without friends in tow. Whether it’s for another gastronomic treat or a cup of espresso, with time to kill or just a quick run through — this is one favorite spot of the Pinay New Yorker now for the many choices when you feel like enjoying a bit of Italy in the heart of the big apple.
While the crowds might be dizzying to others, I like being able to disappear into that crowd and enjoy a leisurely lunch with the rest of the world passing by me. Perhaps when I return, I can feature the stores and the offerings that make the market place even more appealing, even when you don’t feel like getting a bite. Bon Appetit!
Eataly is located at 200 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10011, accessible via the N or R subway lines (23rd Street stop) or the various buses heading towards downtown. Once you get to the Flat Iron Building which you cannot miss, you can either look around and find it across the street or ask around. Cafe Lavazza is open daily from 8am and Eataly market at 10am.