Mario Batali's Passport to Eataly
Manhattan's sprawling new Eataly—Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich's most ambitious project yet—is both a spectacular place to buy Italian ingredients and the ultimate food court for foodies.
Any time Mario Batali comes up with a new slogan, I get inspired. When the chef says, "Spaghetti is love," I put on a pot of water to boil. His most recent motto, "Shop hard, shop often," will surely be my most motivational one yet.
That's because Batali's newest project, Eataly, an artisanal-food-and-wine market and restaurant complex, promises to change the way New Yorkers shop. All of Eataly's details are impressively big and cool—the $18 million project occupies some 50,000 square feet in Manhattan's newly hip Madison Square Park neighborhood; it's based on a store of the same name in Turin, Italy, that has food lovers going crazy for things like raw milk on tap. But those aren't the main reasons I'm excited about Eataly. The city's green-markets notwithstanding, it's been a while—since the early days of Dean & DeLuca in the 1980s—that a food market has given New Yorkers something to obsess about. And then there's Batali's ability to create dishes that are so good they become buzzwords: I'm thinking specifically of the beef-cheek ravioli at his 12-year-old Manhattan flagship, Babbo.
I'm not sure what my favorite thing will be at Eataly, but I know I'll have a lot of choices. Batali—along with longtime business partner Joe Bastianich, chef Lidia Bastianich (Joe's mother) and Eataly's Italy-based founder, Oscar Farinetti—offers a zillion options for eating and drinking. Everything reflects the philosophy that food should be artisanal and sustainable, a combination of Dean & DeLuca and the green-markets: "You'll always know what season you're in," says Batali.
Eataly's Best Recipes
The vast market sells impossible-to-find Italian ingredients like linguine from Afeltra, a venerable pasta producer in Campania, and supernutty Parmigiano Reggiano delle Vacche Rosse, made with milk from heritage-breed red cows. But a good number of the 10,000 or so products are local ingredients ("New Yorkchese" is how Batali describes it), like pheasants, ducks and eggs from Quattro's Game Farm in Pleasant Valley, New York, and luxurious marbled beef tenderloin from Piedmontese cows that graze in Pennsylvania.
Alongside the food store, Joe Bastianich stocks an astonishing collection of Italian wines, from the 2009 Bolla Soave ($10) to the obscure 1961 Giacomo Borgogno Barolo ($1,010). Bastianich has also created a wine library to educate customers about lesser-known varietals, like Malvasia. "There's a lot of action in Italy's wine world. And there's going to be a lot of Italian action at Eataly," he says.
Since I'm a restaurant fanatic, I'm especially obsessed with Eataly's full-on restaurant Manzo, and assorted food counters. Each of the counters, from a seafood spot to a panini bar, has a concise menu dedicated to a single kind of food ("Don't even try to order a cappuccino at the fish counter," warns Batali). Plus, "Each little place has its own wine list that speaks to that food," Bastianich says. In the pasta section, there's a choice of sauces—the first time Batali will let customers make that decision. (Having tried it in F&W's Test Kitchen, I would recommend fusilli with the luscious, chunky butcher's ragù paired with a glass of the 2007 Scarbolo Campo del Viotto Merlot.) The rooftop birreria (beer garden) features brews made by Dogfish Head's Sam Calagione, accompanied by house-made sausages, cheeses and dishes like succulent grilled skirt steak with a tart salsa verde.
But the two words that have convinced me Eataly is my new hangout are vegetable butcher. Batali and his performance artist friend Jennifer Rubell have set up a cook next to the vegetable counter who will answer any vegetable-related questions ("What is puntarella and how do I cook it?") and also, for free, prep ingredients customers have bought—for instance, chopping the vegetables for a terrific farro soup. Will he or she really wear a necklace made with the vegetable of the day? Maybe Batali was kidding, but there's only one way for me to find out.