Lex and I love Italian food and are always on the hunt to find authentic food when we travel. We’d heard about Eataly from friends prior to visiting NY so we put it on our list as a must-have meal. FYI, if you do want authentic and delicious Italian food, this is a much better option that Little Italy where meals are targeted towards tourists. We first caught a glimpse of Eataly on our bus tour around Midtown. Right opposite the Flatiron building, the popular Italian foodhall can be quite unassuming from the outside, but don’t let appearances fool you. When you get inside you’re transported to a food haven with all the best Italian produce and cooking on display. Unfortunately for us that produce was hard to see when we first went to Eataly as it seemed that every tourist in NY had the same idea as us – it was absolutely packed. We found a table and thought that we had hit the jackpot until the waitress promptly asked us to move and said the wait time is two hours. Lex and I refused to wait that long, and so we came back to Eataly after the peak tourist time in NY and to our surprise found it a lot less busy and a lot more enjoyable.
Before I go in to details of our meals, I want to take some time to explain the concept of Eataly as the experience goes hand in hand with the food. Basically Eataly is an expansive Italian foodhall. It’s divided in to separate restaurants which all focus on a different aspect of food and cooking. Each restaurant is placed within its corresponding market section, so you can actually buy the food they cook.
- Pranzo – a lunch-time restaurant that acceptas reservations (this is a bonus if you head to Eataly when it’s busy. It also has a really cool concept whereby the meals are served with the recipes so that you can recreate the meal at home and learn about the intricacies of Italian cooking. They also serve regional Italian dishes that are rich in flavour, and are located just out of the bustling marketplace so you can have a (reasonably) quiet meal.
La Pizza and La Pasta (where Lex and I went) – this is actually two restaurants combined into one and serve just as the name would suggest, Napoli-style pizza and al dente pasta! It also has an upstairs eating area that has a nice outlook over the marketplace. Lex and I sat upstairs and it was great to feel part of the action but in a little more relaxed setting. They do not accept reservations and the wait-time can be excessive during busy times.
- Le Verdure – situated near the produce department, Le Verdure is a restaurant that honours the trusty vegetable. They use local and seasonal ingredients and is a good option for both vegans and vegetarians. They do not accept reservations.
- Il Pesce – a restaurant featuring fresh seafood (that you can also buy after your meal at the seafood counter!), including oysters and catch of the day. They serve their seafood in a variety of ways too – crudo, pan-seared, roasted etc. A healthy option is a seemingly carb-centric foodhall! No reservations.
- Manzo Ristorante – this is a fine-dining restaurant which showcases the highest quality Italian ingredients and follows the traditional Italian style dining experience – antipasti, primi piatti, secondi piatti, and dolci. They also offer tasting menus which are great for the indecisive. They do accept reservations.
- La Piazza – modelled after an Italian city square where friends and family father for wine and antipasti, La Piazza is a standing room only restauarant where patrons can sample the various specialties taken directly from the sales counters. Again, if you like what you taste you can buy afterwards! I would have loved to try La Piazza as the concept is great, however after a long day spent exploring, Lex and I needed to have a sit down meal. Reservations are not accepted at La Piazza.
What we ordered:
As I mentioned previously, Lex and I ate at La Pizza and La Pasta as it seemed like the most obvious choice for us. For our lunch we were seated upstairs on the “belvedere” mezzanine balcony above the restaurant which offered a unique bird’s-eye view of Eataly’s marketplace. I should point out that the pizza kitchen is separate to the pasta kitchen so the meals come out at different times. Lex ordered the Calzone (how surprising!) which came with Tomato sauce, Mozzarella, Ricotta and Prosciutto Cotto. It was $18 which we thought was quite reasonable – and it was also quite a generous Calzone. Lex said it was the best pizza he had in NY and up there with some of the better Calzone’s he’s eaten. As for me, I went for something a little different and ordered the Bucatini all’Amatriciana with local Guanciale, Red Onion, Tomato, Chilli Flakes, Pecorino and Parsley. If you’re like me and don’t know what Bucatini is, it’s very similar to spaghetti but with hollow tubes. It was absolutely delicious. I’d been craving a good pasta and this did the trick – it was hearty, flavoursome and the combination of ingredients and flavours worked together perfectly. The pork cheek had just the right amount of salt and added a distinct (but not overpowering) meaty flavour to the dish. The Bucatini pasta also had a bit more taste than regular spaghetti and was definitely more filling.
After lunch Lex and I browsed around Eataly, having a look at the mouth-watering counters of food, having a flick through the Italian recipe books, and savouring the experience that comes with a visit to the foodhall. I loved it so much I decided to buy an “Eataly is Italy” tote bag.