Mario Batali Restaurant Opens: Eataly NYC
Mario Batali's restaurant Eataly NYC is the mega-star chef's brand new, insanely huge (36,500 square feet!), and, at this point, crazy-crowded Italian high-end restaurant / wood-fired pizzeria / coffee shop / grocery store / gelateria / chocolateria / panini spot / raw bar / bakery / outdoor beer garden (coming soon!) / salumi wine bar / and, of course, pasta place. And more. A lot lot LOT more.
Chef Mario Batali and his long-time partner Joe Bastianich have, in fact, opened SEVEN different sit-down (or, in the case of the I Salumi e I Formaggi area, stand-at) restaurants at Eataly NYC, right across the street from Madison Square Park. And that's not even including all of the take-out food and fresh fruits and bread and pastas and cured meats and cheeses and groceries and… well, you get the idea.
It would take months (and, given the prices, millions!) to try everything at Mario Batali's restaurant, but we've gone to Eataly NYC a few times already–and didn't bother a few other times, when there was a line just to get IN, where plenty more lines await–sampling and sharing as much as we could at several different stations. Overall, most everything has been good to excellent (with a misstep or two), impeccably fresh, professionally prepared, filled with high-quality ingredients, though each item is about three to five dollars more expensive than you want it to be.
First, the Eataly NYC pasta, served at La Pasta, which, no surprise, has by far the longest wait here, reaching 90 minutes or more at night. Chef Mario Batali, of course, is famous for his pasta, most especially at his flagship restaurant Babbo, and the one dish we had here at Eataly didn't disappoint, a rich Agnolotti al plin di Alba, the chewy little pockets filled with an intense hit of meat and spices, served simply with butter and parmigiano reggiano. Great stuff, though we could have eaten twice as much, especially for $19.
Also very good was the Piatto Misto, at La Verdure, Eataly NYC's under-populated vegetable bar, a mixed platter which included a crunchy Pinzimonio Citronette (or: raw vegetables with lemon), a few spoonfuls of terrific sweet and funky eggplant Caponata, a pile of perfectly cooked fingerling potatoes in mustard and garlic, and a half- (quarter?-) bowl of Summer Minestrone. This is food that makes you feel healthy even as its going down, but again, at $19, we wished it did a better job at filling our bellies.
At Il Pesce we tried the Pesce Azzurro, which was several anchovies and sardines blanketed over a mound of vinegary sweet peppers. Refreshing, lively, and very much of the sea. At the Lavazza Cafe we loved both the almond cookie and ganache-filled hazelnutty sandwich, though $5 each is little ridiculous for their size (not even the monsters up at Levain Bakery cost that much). Oddly enough, the least successful dish we've had so far at this Mario Batali restaurant was the one filled with gelato, specifically: half apricot almond, half chocolate. Not that the frozen treat was necessarily bad, just surprisingly bland, and not nearly as good as what you'll find at Grom, or L'Arte de Gelato.
Mario Batali's Eataly NYC also sells dried pastas by the aisle-full; housewares and kitchen gadgets from the likes of Alessi and Guzzini; more tiny jars of $15 honey than we knew existed; exotic fishes and beautiful looking steaks; tons of complicated coffee drinks; and there's even a on-site "vegetable artist", who will prep your produce while you wait. Even if you buy nothing, and eat nothing, it's worth wandering the aisles here just to gawk. And at night there's an undeniably electricity in the air as you jump from station to station grabbing a bite here and there, joining the throngs of happy, good-looking locals and tourists alike. Expect the excitement to last well past the holiday season this year.
Mario Batali's Restaurant, Eataly NYC Details
The main entrance of Chef Mario Batali's Eataly NYC is located on Fifth Avenue between 24th and 23rd Street, but if there's a line there to get inside, walk around the corner to 23rd Street… twice we've been able to saunter right in these doors without a wait. Eataly is open every day from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. For more information, please see the Eataly NYC Facebook page.