"You guys are going to Eataly, right?" she asked expectantly.
Well obviously I hadn't kept up with the foodie buzz in New York. Eataly is a new venture co-helmed by Mario Batali, Lidia Bastianich and others and it is an enormous Italian Food marketplace down on 23rd and Fifth Avenue. Well, needless to say it's not a secret, in fact within only a few months of opening the place has turned into the site of a daily mob scene.
As I get older and crankier, I find that I am quite crowd-averse and the Eataly experience, while fun, was also a little overwhelming.
The door in is pretty unprepossessing and looks like all it leads to is a modest cafe and gelato bar, but inside the space is enormous, with specialty food areas, restaurants, wine bar, pizzeria, rosticceria... The list goes on and on.
Finding your way around can be a frustrating mess, since the crowds make the narrow entrance and indeed the entire space pretty hard to maneuver in. I wish they hadn't just plonked restaurant tables in the middle of the floor, it's almost impossible to find a clear path through if you're a shopper (go around the perimeter) and it's difficult to figure how you get a table if you're a diner. (look for the seating checkpoint signs on the square columns).
At Eatlay for most things you get a basket and just start gathering products, chocolates, bread, pasta, cheese, truffle butter... The checkout is over by the 23rd street exit and you can pay for most everything at once.
They have large walls of salumi, cheeses. There is a pastry spot which sells tempting cannolis, and a rosticceria where a very tasty roasted chicken costs between $8-$15.
The vegetable stands are unmanned, but the produce looks nice and fresh.
The cheeses are also unmanned, so there is no cutting to order, or samples. Everything is wrapped in plastic already in a grab -and-go sort of situation. But they stock the usual suspects of Italian Cheese: taleggio, robiola, parmagiano and padano, plus a few unusual items. Nothing crazy though.
All on all, while I like Eataly for a lot of things, I think I wouldn't make it a regular place to shop however. It's more of a tourist destination in the mold of the San Miguel market in Madrid or San Francisco's Ferry Building, and less like the Barcelona Boqueria or even the Mercato Centrale in Florence.
It's definitely fun to come in and wander, and maybe pick up some foodie gifts or make a basket of goodies for a friend, but if I were cooking a serious dinner, I might take advantage of other smaller and less pricey places around the city for my supplies.
The pasta selection.
Meat cuts were good-looking and their blanket of tripe was lovely.
Lots of prepacked meat in cases though.
Still, nice for a visit, but I don't know if it will be worth the fight through the crowds on a regular basis.