Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Discovering Eataly

Rule number 8 is my favorite of the "rules" of Le Verdure restaurant within Eataly. I think someone on that team is either vegetarian or vegan, or simply has it figured out.

Eataly, the new 50,000 square foot Italian food mecca in the old Toy Building, might've been introduced to New York City by none other than dynamic duo Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich, but the brainchild behind the Eataly markets is Oscar Farinetti, who founded the popular flagship market in Turin. In the very Italian fashion of its sister store, the market prides itself on seasonal, sustainable food, some of which is even given the Slow Food seal of approval, and sales counters that specialize in only one specific item.

As a vegetarian shopper, you'll find lots of Italian treats throughout Eataly- imported pastas alongside a stockpile of Barilla dried pasta, and that's in addition to the counter where you can order freshly made stuffed pastas and pasta shapes; freshly made breads and pizzas; imported chocolates next to Italian pastries made on the premises; a Lavazza counter that's conveniently situated near the gelato counter (which, much to our disappointment, had sold out of the flavors we wanted- a consequence of opening-week buzz); a good selection of Italian cheeses and wines, along with bar tables in Eataly's "Piazza" where you can sip the vino and cheese that you've purchased. Hello Europe!

But consequently, considering the NYC-based creators, there's product promotion abound. Sure, the Batali cookbooks in the Library section and the Lidia Bastianich brand jarred sauces in the Pasta section surely aren't imported from Italy, but if you can get past some of the blatant product plugs, you'll have an enjoyable time exploring the new market.

My favorite section of course was the produce section with Italian veggies that I've never cooked with before (see my last post on Cucuzza squash), more mushrooms varieties than your favorite Whole Foods, fresh herbs, heirloom eggplants, and reasonably priced standard veggies like kale and tomatoes. In between the produce section and the Verdure restaurant, you'll find this guy: The Vegetable Butcher, who will clean and prepare the produce you select, and also give you suggestions on how to cook your choice veggies. Genius! Anything that might help people eat more veggies is genius in my book.


 Most importantly, the question remains- how well can a vegetarian or vegan mangia at any of the restaurants in Eataly? The answer is a simple, molto bene! My honey and I opted to sit at the Le Verdure bar rather than wait for a table. If you believe in signs, and I do, we received an uplifting one shortly after ordering a birra- another group of twenty-somethings, clearly waiting for tables at other outposts in the market, brought a hefty serving of prosciutto, mortadella, and other Italian meats to the bar. One of the women at the Verdure counter immediately came over and told them this was not permissible- Eataly was not a cafeteria where you could bring food from cafe to cafe, and additionally, as Le Verdure, they did not want anyone bringing meat to the vegetable-themed cafe, and especially did not want to offend visitors who came to enjoy the vegetable dishes.

Seriously, I could've hugged this woman. If that wasn't a sign of good things to come, then I'm a meat-dress wearing Gaga.

As with every meal I've enjoyed at a Batali restaurant, I was not disappointed.

We started with a fresh vegetable soup, garnished with fresh pepper and Ligurian olive oil. There was no mistaking the freshness of the veggies in the soup, and it was both flavorful and light. A great starter.

We also split the salad special on the chalkboard- grilled veggies with farro and arugula. As I've gushed in past posts, I think grilling makes vegetables even more wonderful than they already are, and with a light marinade with just a touch of balsamic, these grilled veggies really shined. We loved the variety of veggies- green and yellow squash, peppers, fennel, asparagus, eggplant, frisee, radicchio. A hearty portion of veggies tossed with the farro really made for a filling dish.

A trifecta of shiitake, oyster, and king mushrooms sauteed with garlic and a hint of lemon is what dreams are made of. No, seriously, I was thinking about these delish mushrooms for days, and I'll be attempting this recipe later in the week. The lemony kick was a great counterbalance to the usual earthiness of the mushrooms, and the delicate polenta "crackers" were warm and crispy and did not take away from the flavor of the mushrooms. I love how something so simple can be so delicious!

Overall, we had a wonderful time at Eataly, and thanks to Batali and Company yet again, my expectations are sky-high... I only wish they were high enough where I could piggy back on the next plane to Italy.

Eataly, 200 5th Avenue at 23rd Street, 646-398-5400


Sandy Lo said...

Brava, Teresa! Wonderful review and photos. Makes me want to go there :)

Gina said...

I'm dying to try this place! Thanks for the wonderful review! I'll definitely be heading there soon.

Robyn @ Wannabe Writer Runner said...

2nd time I've read about this place just today. Must.Go.Now!!

Kathy said...

I love the rule #8 photo u snapped! :)

I missed little quips like that because it was SO crowded when I visited. I need to go back and actually taste some veggies! I do wish the prices were a bit lower so everyone could taste and enjoy - given the somewhat cafeteria-like/food market setting.

Great review!!


Holly Chase said...

Nice to have your veg report on Eataly. We've been immersed in the cult of cucuzza ( that long green snake gourd/squash) and are happy to share the back story on the Sicilian specialty.

Did Eataly have any tenerumi-- the cucuzza tendrils?

For more info on how to enjoy cucuzza, veg-loving Italophiles will want to see


Part III is coming....

holly(at) almostitalian (dot) com