NEW YORK, N.Y. – It’s as if Little Italy is all grown up.
A sprawling complex dedicated to Italian food and wine opened Tuesday in Manhattan, offering seven boutique restaurants, a wine shop, bakery and patisserie, plus a supermarket-sized marketplace.
Several Italian mayors and New York City officials gathered near hanging sausages and sleeves of garlic to cut a ribbon made of fresh lasagna pasta, marking the opening of the 4,600-square-metre Eataly. Founders claim it’s the largest site in the world dedicated to high-quality Italian food — fresh ingredients and minimally processed foods are emphasized, and nothing is frozen except the gelato.
“Everything that’s fresh is local — fish, beef, milk, vegetables — and then the best of Italian ingredients, reggiano parmigiano, balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, are imports,” said Joe Bastianich, one of the founders. “So it’s not didactically everything from Italy, it’s the spirit of eating in a true Italian way.”
There’s also a rooftop beer garden and a culinary school for those who are desperate to learn how to perfect their own pasta dough or make fresh mozzarella at home.
Manhattan’s Eataly is the brainchild of culinary heavyweights Oscar Farinetti, Mario Batali, and Batali’s New York City partners, Lidia and Joe Bastianich. Farinetti founded a similar complex in Turin, Italy, located on the city’s outskirts near Fiat headquarters. There is also an Eataly in Tokyo.
The New York City Eataly resides in the lobby of the historic building at Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street once known as the International Toy Center. The landmarked building already had an ornate marble lobby, with elements that now evoke the feeling of an Italian piazza.
Shopping and eating at Eataly is not a bargain, but a budget-conscious diner can enjoy the Italian experience there without spending excessively. The prepared food is often the best bet — pasta pomodoro goes for US$12, and pizza margherita for US$13. Plus you get to watch everything being made.
The take-home market products are more pricey than what you might find in a supermarket, like a US$12 special imported pesto from Genova.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose administration is aiming to help small businesses and restaurants fast-track the permitting process as part of his economic recovery plan, predicted Eataly will be a “must-visit destination for food aficionados from far and wide.”