Last fall I had the good fortune to be able to visit New York City twice. There is no place in the world more electric, exciting and full of interesting things to do than this great American city. Multiculturalism flourishes here. For several centuries, peoples from all of the world have immigrated to the "Big Apple" making it their home and adding to its cultural eclecticism.
As many mega, international cities, New York City is an amalgam of neighborhoods each having their own special character and vibe. Currently, one of the most exciting areas of the city is the Downtown/Financial District. After 911, the city's politicians and developers made a commitment to make this area vibrant again and vibrant it is! In the last ten years most of the city's new development has happened here. Modern condos, upscale shopping centers, contemporary office buildings have completely changed the feel and appeal of Downtown, so much so, that this area is beginning to be more desirable than the Upper East side for many New Yorkers, especially the young professional class.
One of the best things evolving from all of this new development is the plentitude of great restaurants. Having arrived in the city in the late afternoon, I decided I needed something lite to eat before meeting my business associates for dinner at 8:00 and accordingly, asked the concierge for a restaurant recommendation that was within walking distance of the hotel. He suggested Eataly, one of the "hottest" food concepts in the city.
Located at 101 Liberty St. in the 4WTC building right next to the Oculus and the 911 Memorial, I rode the escalator up to Eataly, only to be blown away by what I discovered. This wasn't your typical Italian restaurant! A "trip to Eataly opens the door to Italy," is how this Italian food megastore is described. Seven different dining areas, a pasta and pastry counter, two coffee bars, a wine tasting and small plate area, the most complete Italian food marketplace in the city offering fresh produce, specialty foods and ...., a bookstore, a gourmet food appliance section and a learning center, Foodiversita, that conducts food and cooking classes daily made up Eataly''s downtown emporium.
My first impression was "wow," what a fabulous new food concept. For over a half an hour I wandered around exploring the different sections. Everything look so delicious, I could hardly decide what I wanted to eat to damper my hunger but what I did realize was I would be back for a full meal before I left to go back home!
I settled on a fresh green salad with Eataly's extra virgin, stone-pressed olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing, a slice of its famed pane rustico bread and a Italian lemon soda, the perfect solution for my hunger problem. Verdict; absolutely the best simple salad I had ever eaten anywhere in the world. The quality and freshness of the ingredients where second to none.
From the Guest Relations greeters I learned the first Eataly was opened only ten years ago in Torino, Italy. It's passionate, culinary founder, Oscar Farinetti, set out to create, "a place where people could eat, shop and learn about Italian food." Using and selling only the freshest ingredients and products from Italy's best local producers was the basis of the high food quality offered at Eataly. This new food concept store, restaurants and learning center was so popular that there are now 35 locations worldwide.
Likewise, it was shared in celebration of Eataly's 10 anniversary one could purchase an assortment of its 10 best selling products which are as follows: 1) Pane Rustico, bread made daily with stone-ground flour and time-honored yeast; 2) Mozzarella made with fresh local curd by mozzarella artisans every morning; 3) Agnolotti del Plin, an egg dough pasta stuffed with veal; 4) San Marzano Tomatoes, sun-ripened, sweet tomatoes grown in the rich, organic Versuvius volcanic soil; 5) Afeltra Bucatini, gourmet hollow, long strand pasta which is pairs wonderfully with any sauce; 6) Olio di Roi, stoned- pressed extra virgin olive oil; 7) Italian wines from the various regions in Italy; 8) Gianduiotto, boat-shaped, hazelnut filled chocolates; 9) Proscutto di Parma, cured pork sliced ultra thin to be ideally served with melon, mozzarella and bread; 10) Gelato, made daily with local fresh milk.
What an array of fabulous Italian food, so basic and so good! While I didn't buy any of the products to take home, I wanted to list them to further wet your appetite and illustrate how heavenly the products Eataly offers are. Accordingly, Eataly has a website where you can buy all of the products it sells if you do not live where they have a location. Something good to know if you are wanting to source Italy's best food products in the US.
A little bit more description of the specific restaurants and food counters located in the Downtown marketplace is in order to fully paint the picture of how "over-the top" fabulous this Italian food emporium really is. Here's the list.
Orto E Mare serves Italian and American food throughout the day including breakfast. Small plates, a seafood bar with fresh oysters and Italian flat breads are the popular foods served here. Rossopomodoro specializes in Neapolitan pizza for in house or takeout. This restaurant is solo-friendly with its seating option around the pizza makers and the beautiful copper ovens. La Insalata features a heavenly salad bar. Osteria della Pace is the fine-dining venue which is only open for dinner. Il Pesce serves delectable seafood dishes. Last, Eataly's wine bar serving wines from the 20 different Italian wine regions is both popular for drinking and socializing.
La Pasticceria is the pastry counter that features a wide variety of bite size Italian desserts and baked goods, as well as, oodles of gourmet candy. One can buy something sweet and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea in the adjacent cafe area. Salumi E Formaggio has every variety of Italian cheese and cold cured meats made. One of its specialties is the Salami Di Cioccolato which is a salami roll wrapped in chocolate. Now that's exotic and I bet it is delish!
The Marketplace stocks the finest and most comprehensive selection of Italian food products to be found anywhere in the world in one place. Local farmers, cheesemakers, butchers, fisherman and bakers are used whenever possible. The scrumptuous bread baked here daily is made with a mother yeast from Italy and fresh local flour. The mozzarellas created use fresh milk from New York state. The best Italian and domestic beers and wines from Italy are plentiful for purchase. An onsite butcher counter cuts meats that are sourced from local, sustainable farms and ranches where the animals only graze in pastures and are not handled by machines. Arborio rices, perfect for making risotto, and painstakingly made pastas of all varieties are available here, as well as, preserves, honey, sauces, condiments, aged vinegars and over a 100 varieties of extra virgin olive oil. Bottomline: this is one helluva grocery store.
If this blog post hasn't made you long for memorable Italian food, you probably don't really care for this type of cuisine. I can say without hesitation that Eataly is the hippest new food concept I have seen any where in the world on my travels. Whether you want to dine, snack or buy some Italian food products to take home, think of nowhere else but Eataly.
Enjoy this short video highlighting the Eataly Experience. As always, I value your thoughts and comments about my blog posts. Let me know if you have any questions about Eataly that I have not answered in this piece.