All I can say is “OMG”. Eataly is ridiculous. Seriously. The place is massive and packed full of everything Italia. I don’t even know where to start. It must be the largest concentration of Italian import food goods, plus hand made stuff, plus specialty restaurants on the planet. I’m convinced. I was in hog heaven. Now if only those other bazillion people crammed in there would get out of my way!
It goes like this: Every specific section contains a grocery plus a restaurant and then there are little prepared foods take-out areas scattered about. So, you could go to the fish section and buy fresh fish to cook at home, or you could sit down at Pesce and order from the seafood dominant menu. Same with the produce. There’s a section of beautiful and interesting fruits and veggies but there’s also a counter with it’s own hot line serving all veggie dishes. There’s also a coffee bar and a gelato counter, whose line backs up to the line of people waiting at the panino counter. Plus, an entire restaurant dedicated to pasta and pizza, of course (I really wanted to go there!), and a bread counter selling a huge variety of breads I haven’t seen since I was in Italy last. And I haven’t even mentioned the salumi and cheese bar which contains an area where people are making fresh mozzarella in front of your eyes, which is next to the counter with whole legs of prosciutto and other beautiful cured things hanging above you. Oh, and there’s wine, and cookies, and preserves, and confections, and more pasta than you can shake a stick at (fresh and dried), and a rotisserie carving porcini rubbed prime rib to-go…. yeah, it’s pretty fabulous.
We went there to eat at Manzo. It’s the fine dining, meat driven restaurant (Manzo=Beef in Italian) headed up by Babbo’s ex-sous chef, Michael Toscano and his wife Caitlin, who happens to be a friend of mine from our days managing at Del Posto together. They are so lovely and great at what they do.
I didn’t tell Caitlin I was coming. I wanted to surprise her and see her in her new place. When I greeted her, she was shocked. She pointed at Michael who happened to be out of the kitchen for the moment. We hugged. Then I noticed who I was standing next to when I did. It was Mark Ladner, the chef at Del Posto who I’d worked with, and the Fat Man himself. I re-introduced myself (he couldn’t possibly remember lil’ ol’ me in the sea of people he employs) and he responded with, “I know who you are.” I’m sorry, what?! Mario Batali knows who I am? Even after a year of not seeing me around his restaurant? Holy crap. Then he continued with, “That’s some pretty big hair you’ve got going.” To which Ladner replied without hesitation, “Yeah, that’s kinda her shtick.” Haha! This cracked me up! Ladner was always making me stop in the kitchen so he could study my ‘do and try to figure out how I did it. Such characters! We chatted a bit more before I went to the table to indulge in what was about to come.
And there was plenty of it! Michael is so talented. He’d been thinking about and planning this menu for years. Caitlin was always telling me about the recipes he was testing at home and how he volunteered at the butcher shop in Chelsea Market on his days off… just to learn everything he possibly could. Such dedication.
Our spread was massive, as you might have guessed. Here’s what we started with:
Then we moved on to the Primi. Honestly, the texture of each one of these pastas is unrivaled to me in the US. Each different and perfect. Incredible. Michael, I want you secrets.
I’m glad they sent this little extra. It would’ve been a shame to miss!
Then a Secondo…
And with that they sent…
You’d think that was enough. There were only 4 of us, for crying out loud. But noooo…. Caitlin wouldn’t let us get away without dessert too!
Oh my gosh. By the end of it, we were stuffed! Such a wonderful dinner as I knew it would be! Thanks guys! See you on the next NYC weekend trip!