Batali’s Eataly Is Foodie Heaven In NYC

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - July 13, 2011
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NYC’s Eataly is massive

In the city that never sleeps, there are no bad restaurants. On a working trip to New York to check out food trends, I am eating my way through the streets and the suburbs in search of the best food and the latest trends.

Bad restaurants don’t survive in New York. Millions of food-savvy citizens decide daily with their dining dollars who rises and who falls, and the excellent standards they demand keep the bar at an impressive height.

You stumble across excellence in the most unlikely places at strip malls and on street corners. And at iconic restaurants such as Katz’s Deli on E. Houston St., the experience is as much about the theater of restaurant life as it is about ordering a pastrami sandwich. With rules (not unlike those posted to the wall of the original Waiola Shave Ice), customers at Katz’s are ticketed and herded into lines, where they wait for one of the world’s greatest sandwiches.

And it’s not just indoors that food rocks the city. At hot dog stands and halal carts, vendors wrap excellent street eats in shiny foil packets to sustain thousands of busy commuters each day.

Fresh food is the current trend. Local, organic, seasonal and bursting with color, fresh food concepts are everywhere. Salad bars, sandwich stalls, Korean grocery stores all entice customers with aisles of summer produce crisp, cool and clean.

Outdoor eating is huge this hot and humid July, with every inch of sidewalk occupied by tables and chairs. Across the city, pedestrians take time to eat oversized sandwiches, sip on a lunchtime glass of wine and slurp handmade gelato from tiny paper cups. It makes me wonder how different Waikiki would be with outdoor tables and chairs, and how much more we might linger in areas like Kaimuki or Chinatown if every restaurant was able to hoist an awning and encourage al fresco eating.

Eataly has become a foodie destination. Jo McGarry photos

The dining destination to which all foodies are headed this year, despite there being more than 20,000 restaurants in the city, is Eataly, Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich’s culinary testament to all things Italian. The massive food hall is part tourist destination, part well-heeled New Yorker’s grocery store, and I imagine that if Willy Wonka turned his hand to food production, it would be here in partnership with Batali. A bakery is overseen by Nancy Silverton (founder of La Brea), fish guru Dave Pasternack heads the outstanding fresh fish counters and Il Pesce, and celebrity butcher Pat LaFrieda supplies sausages, steaks and burgers, occasionally stopping by to give a charcuterie class or two. There’s a wine store, an enoteca, a book shop, cooking classes by Lidia Bastianich, a rooftop beer garden, pastry stores and salumi stations, cured meats and giant wheels of cheese. With fruit and vegetable markets, handmade pasta, gelato, five restaurants and more olive oils and aged balsamic vinegars than most people will see in their lifetime, you could visit Eataly every day for a month and still not uncover all of its hidden treasures. And in a city where even the strip malls have outstanding pizza, Batali and Co. have imported not one, but two wood-fire pizza ovens to crisp up some of the best crusts on the planet. Inspired by the original in Torino, Eataly has already become a landmark in NYC.

Will we ever see the like of it in Hawaii? With the cost of rent and transport to the Islands, there’s no chance. But a mini European food and wine emporium, with an indoor farmers market, local butcher, a fishmonger, baker, sushi bars and an enoteca?

Why not. I live in hope. Happy eating!

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