Eataly Downtown is the food hall Lower Manhattan needs
Manhattan's second Eataly improves upon the original in a neighborhood that badly needs more upscale casual food options.
NYC’s second branch of Eataly, the Italian food hall that counts Mario Batali among its partners, couldn't be coming to a neighborhood that needs it more.
The food hall opens Aug. 11 on the third floor of World Trade Center 4. CEO Nicola Farinetti knew his team would have to come up with something special to set itself apart from its beloved predecessor, and they’ve managed to create a market that feels completely different.
For one, though Eataly Downtown is slightly smaller, it’s much more like a lively piazza thanks to all the floor-to-ceiling windows letting in sunlight from every direction.
But beyond its airy aisles, this is an Eataly built entirely with its neighborhood in mind.
Each Eataly has a theme, and Downtown’s will be bread, which appears on every culture’s table, interpreted in its own ways. About 15 kinds of bread alone will be coming out of the expansive in-house bakery’s wood-burning ovens, and each month a guest baker will contribute his or her own creation.
The bread program is also meant to be a bit of healing for the neighborhood that’s still rebuilding after Sept. 11. “We are rebuilding communication, sharing, discussion with the international exchange of bread,” says Farinetti.
The message about breakfast’s importance hasn’t made it to Italy — it’s still just a pastry and espresso there — so what’s Eataly Downtown going to serve when it opens daily at 7 a.m.? “It’s Italian, but more New York style,” Farnetti concedes of the new open-faced breakfast focaccias, cloudlike squares of dough topped with lox, capers, pickled onions, cheese and a splash of olive oil. Or grab an egg sandwich — yes, just eggs — that’s been fluffed to what Batali describes as a “creamier, almost dessert-y” consistency. Or there’s yogurt with housemade granola, breakfast pizza, and an a.m. take on ravioli is in the works. The Italians are missing out.
Eataly Downtown was built for the lunch rush. Roll up to the Gastronomia counter for ready-to-eat dishes made from recipes by Lidia Bastianich and Batali, which can be served hot or cold.
Pizza spot Rossopomodoro has two ovens going at over 800 degrees, turning out Neapolitan-style pies in about 90 seconds. Grab a fresh juice or smoothie right near the entrance, or if you’re having that kind of day, head to the Lavazza coffee bar in the back for an espresso with a kiss of Sambuca.
You're spoiled for choice when it comes to unwinding at the end of the day: The round bar at the entrance changes from coffee to wines and Peroni later in the day.
For cocktails, head all the way back to Osteria della Pace, the upscale southern Italian restaurant — you’ll need a reservation to snag one of its stylish tables, but not a drink at its ’40s-style bar. Or treat yourself at the gelato counter, which also has an Eataly-first, soft serve ice cream. Make sure they dunk your scoop under the Venchi chocolate fountain.
Batali claims the Eataly has got “the next sandwich craze” inside the blue and white-striped shack called La Piadina Romagnola: piadina, a traditional flatbread from the street vendors of eastern Romagna.
“This is kind of like a panino but it looks like a thick crepe,” explains Batali. “It’s basically lard, flour and water, and it leavens almost naturally but not very much, so it’s got this amazing, tender pull to it.” Folded with savory or sweet fillings, piadina will be baked to order.
Lacking dinner inspiration? The pastas and mozzarella are made fresh daily, and prime rib and seafood have their own counters too. Bonus: You’ll find recipes to go with all their products, since they’re using them at the in-house restaurants, too.
And with 10,000 products including over 200 cheeses, imported dry pastas (with gluten-free varieties) and 120 kinds of extra virgin olive oil, you’ll want a bit of guidance.
Or just swing by Foodiversità, where a former Wall Streeter named Mark who was “bored and annoyed working with money” will hold casual, hands-on cooking classes at noon, 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. daily, no reservation required.