September 8, 2010

Batali and Co's EATALY Part I - The Market

Grocery store, bakery, restaurant, take-out counter, pizzeria, and's no wonder that we spent countless hours wandering about this place! Eataly is the brainchild of Mario Batali and Joe and Lidia Bastianich.  It's a huge space, nearly 50,000 sq ft, and has been crowded with locals and tourists since its opening last Tuesday.  This post is the first of three posts dedicated to Eataly (there's a lot to cover!).  In this post, we'll show you the grocery store face of Eataly (Part 2 will cover "dining in Eataly" with the final part showcasing our purchases from Eataly).

Our first impression of Eataly is that though it is big, it feels crowded as the dining areas and grocery areas intertwine.  It was difficult to navigate around and overwhelming to find the various sections.  At times, we would walk through seating areas with people dining to get to different grocery areas.
The shopping carts were sleek and they could fit a shopping basket on top and on the bottom.  Prices for groceries varied from fair to expensive. 
The produce area carried a variety of items from regular tomatoes on the vine ($2/lb) to more unusual fruits like gooseberries ($4/pkg) and kiwano fruit ($6 ea).  There were also tons of mushroom varieties (like we saw in San Fran).
One of the unique features of Eataly is the 'Vegetable Butcher.'  When we visited, they were breaking down artichokes and preparing beets so that people can take them home to cook right away.  The vegetable butchers told us that they will prepare anything in the produce area for us to take home. 
Throughout the afternoon, the bread was disappearing fast.  By around 3pm that afternoon, the display case had various empty slots as lots of people were getting bread to go with their cured meats and cheeses.
The fresh pastas looked good, but it seemed much more expensive than the fresh pasta we get from Raffetto's in the West Village.
We loved seeing all of the fresh seafood and fish - especially the Wild Gulf shrimp.  Everyone who walked by seemed amazed by the assortment - or at least curious about the ugly monkfish staring at them.  Eataly is supposed to have fish brought in daily from West Coast and Europe along with pristine locally sourced product.
The cheeses were tempting, especially the housemade mozzarella (made daily).  We ended up getting burrata cheeses ($9.80 ea) that were imported from Italy.
The Piedmontese beef are local beef from cow breeds that originated in the Piedmont region in Italy.  They're leaner, more muscular, and higher in protein.  The selection included Piedmontese NY strip ($19.80/lb) and Piedmontese fillet ($29.80/lb).  On the cooked meat side, people were lining up for picnic items like Prosciutto di Parma ($23.90/lb, $26.80/lb), Coppa Dolce ($24.80/lb), and Sopressata ($24.80/lb).
The beverage areas had numerous Italian sodas, imported water, and beers. It's the biggest selection of Italian craft beers we've seen in NYC; however, the beers are on the pricey side (and even more marked up in the restaurants).  My husband liked seeing craft brands in addition to the common Moretti beers.  Alongside the bottles from Birrificio Montegioco and  Birra del Borgo, there were numerous bottles of Dogfish Head beers.  

Later this fall, Eataly is planning to open a rooftop brewery that is a collaboration between Dogfish Head from Delaware and the Italian craft brewers Birrificio le Baladin and Birra del Borgo (unfortunately it appears Russian River Brewing will not be part of it as first reported earlier this year).  We also heard that Eataly would also have housemade sausages on hand when the rooftop opens.  It sounds like Eataly's going to be even more crowded!
The wine store next door that includes the Bastianich family wines and those in the portfolio of a co-developer of Eataly that includes the Fontanafredda and Borgogno labels.
Unlike most grocery stores though, you can purchase and immediately dine on food and drink like charcuterie and Italian soda pop.  Our next post will feature the take-out and various restaurant options we experienced within Eataly.

Overall, the grocery store areas had a good assortment of dry pastas (even the Barilla dry pasta is from Italy, not from the US like the boxes found in Fairway), anchovies, cheeses, and cured meats.  The prices varied and the crowds and layout made shopping difficult.  Speaking with an employee, it sounds like we'd have to get there at 10AM when the grocery store opens in order to beat the crowds.  From lunchtime to 11pm close, it's currently a zoo.

Eataly is located at 200 5th Ave (btwn 23rd and 24th Sts) in NYC.

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