Mario Batali recently described his imported food hall Eataly as a "temple," as a place where "food is more sacred than commerce." And while a preview of the place last night revealed there will be a heck of a lot of commerce in this place, he may be right. When it comes down to it, Eataly is nothing short of epic, a giant Slow Food mecca of all things Italy. At its core, it's a fancy Italian grocery store with individual retail departments offering the best of everything (pastry, bread, a butcher, a fishmonger, pasta, cured meats, cheese, hand-made mozzarella, etc.), some of which are directly connected to their own sit-down restaurants with waiter service.
And then! Gelato! A coffee bar! Panini! Pizza! A wine store! A bookstore! Housewares! A cooking school by Lidia Bastianich! A planned rooftop beer garden! All with bi-lingual signage everywhere explaining Eataly's philosophy. "It is not just a market, but a food experience," one sign reads. Everything for everyone! The only thing that's missing is pony rides. In Vegas there'd be a roller coaster involved.
So is Eataly an insta-smash hit in the making? No price points or menus were revealed (which will be a huge factor), and certainly when the place is really humming, there's almost no way it won't approach clusterfuck levels, but the dedication to quality is astounding.
Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich, Lidia Bastianich and other partners led last night's tour, stopping at each section to offer samples and explain specifics. Said Batali, "This isn't a giant food court. This isn't a selection of restaurants under one roof. This is a retail store where we peddle the greatest of Italian products.... You ask any Italian and all of the smart Americans where the best meal they ever had in the last ten years was, and it was never in a restaurant. It was always in the house. And with these products, and this ideology, we're hoping that's what we're going to bring to New Yorkers." Home cooking, peddled by a man with dozens of restaurants.
· Opening to the public Tuesday, August 31st at 4 PM
· 50,000 square feet
· A 300-seat, 6,000 sq ft rooftop partially-enclosed beer garden on the 15th floor, La Birreria, accessible from an in-store elevator, opening November. No preview as they haven't even started building it out yet.
· A cooking school ("La Scuola") under the tutelage of Dean Lidia Bastianich
· The front has a Lavazza coffee shop (that'll open at 7AM), gelateria, and paninoteca
· Two wood-fired pizza ovens imported from Italy
· A fresh pasta counter with two dozen varieties on offer
· An Italian bank ATM
· A bakery (overseen by Nancy Silverton of La Brea Bakery and the Los Angeles Mozza) will sell bread and focaccia at the retail counter and produce bread for the restaurants. Unnamed restaurants have already put in contracts. A dedicated oven (seen through glass doors next the the counter) is expected to run 24 hours a day.
· Butcher, fishmonger (run by David Pasternack), locally-sourced produce
· A huge amount of dry goods: canned tomatoes, tomato sauces, olive oils, vinegars, jams, honey, and a large variety of dried pasta and risotto rice
· A microbrewery is planned (not built yet), headed by Teo Musso of Birrificio Le Baladin, Leonardo Di Vincenzo of Birra del Borgo in Rome, and Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Brewery, including, according to Joe Bastianich, "guest brewers every month that come from Italy to brew regionally- and seasonally-specific beers."
· Pizzeria Rossopomodoro, with two guys from Naples who only arrived in that States the other day, already producing some knockout pizza
· Il Crudo
· Salumi e Formaggi
· La Pasta
· La Verdura, the vegetable bar/restaurant
· Il Pesce, run by David Pasternack
· Il Manzo, a white-tablecloth Italian steakhouse with 80 seats, the only restaurant that'll take reservations, headed by Michael Toscano, formerly of Babbo.
That's in addition to the other food stands:
· Pasticceria, headed by Luca Montersino
· Rosticceria, offering roast meats
· Il Laboratoria De La Mozzarella