Italy is Eataly

This past Monday I was searching for some sort of culinary adventure – a new restaurant, some obscure food market (too much effort), a new recipe? And then it hit me – I’ve been dying to go to Eataly. Eataly is this 50,000 square foot behemoth of a Italian supermarket/restaurant combination located at 200 5th Avenue, catty-corner to the Flatiron building. I figured if I was going to eat and shop, I would need at least a couple hours, and what better to do on a day off!!!! I recruited Beth, who, after hearing stories of friends leaving with over $100 in cheese, was quite willing to go with me. $100 in cheese? Ahhh this place must be divine.

And it is. I walked in, and felt what must be sensory overload. We entered in the produce section, and I could not focus my mind, looking everywhere trying to take it all in. Thinking it unwise to shop on an empty stomach, and me being too excited to stop myself from putting one of everything in my basket, Beth and I walked straight ahead to the first eating stop we could see. Eataly has been designed so you can shop, eat a little, continue with your shopping, and then if you’d like, stop in for another bite somewhere else. With good fortune, Beth and I found ourselves surrounded by salumi e formaggi, in La Piazza, perfect. We shared a high top table with a couple of girls who had a magnificent tray of meats and cheeses (you just walk up, remain standing, and someone brings a menu to you). We ordered the same, the Grande Piatto Misto. We ordered a moderately priced glass of red each, and feasted on salumi, cheese, figs and candied oranges. While mixing up combinations of cheeses and salumi (for those not fluent in Italian, salumi are Italian cured meats, made predominantly from pork. Think prosciutto. Yum.) we were able to get our bearings, and start to take in the experience. Around us was bustle everywhere – we watched them make fresh mozzarella, serve various drafts of beer, and figured out the woman yelling “ding ding ding ding ding” had something to do with the $10 wine and cheese tasting. I told Beth I thought I’d died and was in Heaven. I must get myself to the REAL Italy.

Once finished eating we set out to shop. We went to the gadgets first, full of colorful Italian products. I have to say, it was genius that the creators of Eataly have incorporated eating and drinking into the shopping experience, as I am convinced that a significant portion of their sales must come from impulse buys from pissed shoppers. Beth – might you have anything to comment here? Anyways, as much as I wanted to go home with something, I somehow was able to not buy anything!! We moved on to the book section, the pasta section, where again, you watch them make the pasta in front of you, the meat counter, the dairy section, the coffee bar, the dessert bar. Again, showing remarkable self-control, I found my basket still empty. The treats I settled on were freshly made pasta (you have to be very gentle with it, advises the pasta maker) and 5 oz of mozzarella.

Deciding we wanted to make the most of adventure, Beth and I set out to eat again. Not wanting too much more (and vowing that next time we’d visit the La Pizza & Pasta, with empty stomachs) we went back to La Piazza. This time we ordered the hearts of palm and chick peas salad. And Italian birra. The salad was delicious and I intend to try to recreate it. It was a base of chick peas. They were not canned, so it will be an adventure to cook my own peas! On top were marinated artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, tiny slices of red onion (which, I’ve always wondered why it’s called red onion, when its color is most certainly purple), parmesan cheese and a hint of mint. After enjoying our salad and beers, Beth and I were exhausted, and ready for naps, so back uptown we went.

I have to admit that after a day in Eataly and Pasta alla Norma the night before, I was so full of sodium and food that I was mentally not able to prepare my fresh pasta until today. I know, fresh pasta is only fresh for about a couple of days, but it didn’t fare too badly. I’ve been craving meatballs for about 2 weeks now, and so I prepared meatballs and red sauce. I admit I bought meatballs from Gourmet Garage, but I prepared a version of the sauce from last weeks Pasta alla Norma. The meatballs, pasta, and sauce were so good, I’m writing now with a full belly.

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