Eataly Flatiron is a little piece of Italy in New York City. Italian Americans in the Tri-State area have long had reminders of home. I can think of three delis and two bakeries serving authentic Italian food items in the area near my home just outside of Manhattan in New Jersey. Everyone knows you can find the real deal in the specialty stores and restaurants on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. And, once upon a time, Manhattan’s Little Italy was authentic, too.
But Eataly lives up to its sophisticated reputation and brings to life the idea of the dolce vita in a way these other venues do not. This is not just shopping. This is not just eating a meal at a restaurant. This is an experience for the senses. You can visit Eataly Flatiron at 200 Fifth Ave. (like I did) or Eataly Downtown at 101 Liberty Street on the third floor in New York City. There are other Eataly locations in Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas.
If you plan a visit, expect to spend an entire day there. You arrive and walk into Caffe Lavazzo, which is a typical coffee bar, the kind you might find in Roma. (I would have said Napoli, but it lacks both sfogliatelle and baristas shouting to you in dialect, guaglione!)
While the pastries hardly match the ones I find in Ischia, a small island off the coast of Naples that is home to my family, the ambiance of the place is spot on. You feel as though you are back in Italy. For one, many Italians flock to the place. Everyone who visits us from the Boot insists on stopping there at least once. Two, it is all about taking the time to start the day peacefully, which is an entirely Italian idea.
My Americans get up and go. My Italians linger at the table and won’t turn on their brains without a sip of espresso, some people watching, and salutations among friends. A sweet bite is never discouraged either.
An Italian Market Experience
When you are done with your breakfast, you keep walking deeper into Eataly, and you realize these little cafes, bars, and restaurants are tucked in the nooks and crannies of a giant market. Here, you’ll find Italian ingredients of all sorts, books, and household items that are hard to pass up.
My husband and I were salivating at the array of cheeses and deli meats, including prosciutto crudo, prosciutto cotto, and salami. There is one area with pre-cooked items, where we picked up a thick slice of porchetta slick with oil and rosemary. It made for an unforgettable sandwich on ciabatta bread with arugula and mayo when we returned home.
Deli Meats and So Much More
Honestly, you won’t know where to turn your attention next. Walking around Eataly is a whirlwind for food lovers like me. Along with my husband, I spent much of the morning browsing and picking up must-haves, such as polenta, which I thought would remind my father of his childhood, and seasonings for my cousin who is always in the kitchen. I fell in love with the household items sporting Italian phrases and symbols. If I had a million dollars…
The Stuff of an Italian Home
Costly But Worth It
Indeed, the one criticism of Eataly is the price of everything. Nothing is cheap. While you get what you pay for and the items certainly live up to expectations, you can’t justify regularly doing your grocery shopping here, even if you live nearby. The prices of menu items in the restaurants in and around the market stalls are similarly high. We spent more than $200 on groceries (of which we didn’t buy that much), our meal at one of the restaurants, and our travel to and from New Jersey (we are close to NYC and I used to commute daily for work). In other words, the day was expensive. That’s exactly why we have only done this once – and we were celebrating the tenth anniversary of our vow renewal in the United States.
A Worthy Meal
We ordered the fried antipasto, which included calamari and shrimp with a delicious mayonnaise-based dipping sauce. Many don’t realize Italian devotion to mayo. In fact, many of my relatives in southern Italy make their own mayonnaise from scratch rather than buying it in the grocery store.
Each of the restaurants surrounding the market has its own theme. We went to Il Pesce, the one focused on pesci or fish. You can also go to a pasta bar, where you can pick fresh pasta and its topping. You can bring the freshly made pasta home and put your own sauce on it, too. There’s another place with a meat-lover’s menu. Pizza is available, too, of course. And there’s a restaurant on the roof, which promises to be ultra romantic and is the site of events, such as wine tastings. We didn’t make it up there, but I understand that it is SERRA ALPINA by Birreria, a “winter greenhouse” pop-up restaurant on the roof during winter.
Get Thee to Eataly
Overall, I would recommend going to Eataly at least once. You can even take cooking classes there. Certainly, it will hold you over until you can afford a trip to the real Italy. However, be prepared to empty your pockets. In English or Italian, good stuff ain’t cheap.
Di Meglio is the author of Fun with the Family New Jersey (Globe Pequot Press, 2012). She also has written the Our Paesani column for ItaliansRus.com since 2003. You can follow the Italian Mamma on Facebook or Twitter @ItalianMamma10.
More Images from Eataly