Biceps & Beignets

Picky Palates: EATALY (Flatiron District)

Have you ever been to Italy? Well, what about Eataly?

I had the pleasure of welcoming home one of my old housemates from last summer last week after her month long training in London. (You will see the video of this night in my August vlog!) The five of us who lived together last summer headed to the Flatiron district in Manhattan for dinner and decided on Eataly. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, as I have never visited an Eataly before, but absolutely fell in love with the place!

I’ll be taking you through this Eataly. First, we will visit the marketplace and food court. Then we will head up to the rooftop restaurant where I will give you a rundown of my dinner and review.

(PS. If you have questions about this outfit, details about the pieces will be featured in my post on Thursday!)

The Marketplace

Eataly is the largest Italian marketplace in the world, featuring fresh groceries, restaurants, bakery, food counters, bars, and dried goods for purchase. On top of all that, they also feature is also a rooftop restaurant, have cooking classes, and host seasonal events! We dined at the rooftop restaurant, but not without touring the marketplace first, starting with the Nutella shop, heading into the fresh produce area, through the special section of fine Italian cooking oils, and making a way through the maze of pastas.

The Nutella Shop

The Nutella shop features Nutella infused beverages (hot and cold) as well as baked goods and pastries. It takes great willpower to walk through and not purchase something, that I can tell you! The entire area smelled fantastic as they baked Nutella into croissants, cupcake, muffins, and cannolis.

 

The Produce Section

Right past the Nutella shop is the fresh produce section of Eataly. Here you can find two large farmers’ market styled stands in the middle of the walkway. It’s full of fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, and even a special section for different types of cooking oil! The colors alone were enough to make you crave a home cooked Italian meal. The selection of fruit was incredible, ranging from berries to peaches and apricots to all ranges of figs. The vegetable selection was probably twice the size. There were so many different species of peppers, tomatoes, herbs, and root vegetables. If that wasn’t enough to satisfy you, you could even visit the vegetable fridge. Each section of the wall is dedicated to a different types of lettuces, carrots, mushrooms, squash, cucumber, zucchini… You get the picture.

The Pantries

A little past the produce section is the special section for different cooking oils that I mentioned earlier. As you know, Italians take their cooking very seriously, meaning that there are a million and one different oils that can be used. So if you are interested in purchasing olive oil, you should have to familiarize yourself with what type (virgin, extra virgin, organic?) and what brand suits your cooking best. Or you could just arbitrarily pick one as well. I would love to tell you how to pick out the perfect olive oil, but I have zero idea myself. If anyone can give me some insight, please let me know! I was in choice overload over here.

Past the oil section are the aisles in Eataly’s “pantry” in the marketplace. These pantries are stocked with pastas, sauces, crackers, seasonings, nuts, olives, and infinite amount more. It sounds boring and typical, but if you really browse through the wide selection, you’ll find how unique some of the products and dried goods are. While some are Italian brands in the US, many are actually imported products. One thing I knew for sure is anyone who thinks they’re super bougie with all their pasta knowledge will get a rude awakening when Eataly throws the cavatappi of different pastas you’ve never heard of at you. For example, did you know there were three types of penne too? Well now you do!

If you’re as overwhelmed about the types of pasta as I am, don’t worry because there are tons of more sauces and snacks to get confused about!!! There are small aisles of sauces ranging from tomato basil to truffle oil to pesto to squid ink. I loved walking up and down the aisles and staring at the different flavors because each aisle introduced the region of Italy that would add these flavors into their dishes and what special ingredients were in the selection of sauces. To be very honest, I was still overwhelmed by the pasta selection that I didn’t dive too deeply into the jar labels, but if you’re a true foodie or aspiring chef, this is a highly educational section to browse.

The Food Court

I hate using that phrase “food court” but there was really no other way to describe the center of the marketplace where there are tons of food and beverage counters surrounding a sitting area. you are given a menu to order from as well if you’re unsure of which counter to go to. Most of the dishes are small plates but rather filling because of the items on it. I included the menu for you to peruse below. Peep their #WineWednesday specials!

The counters surrounding the sitting area served all the dishes on the menu.

Starting from the right, there was a small antipasto section called La Mozzarella. They sell a reasonable array of freshly packaged mozzarella (duh), olives, sundried tomatoes, and other things you would expect in your Italian appetizer dishes. The immediate section that followed was my favorite: the cheese and cured meat section. As you can see, there is an entire case stocked overloaded with different wheels of cheese. In fact, there are also so many different wheels of cheeses that the cured meats are stuffed in the back wall and barely visible (probably better for my wallet and my diet). Aside from the thousand pounds of cheese that were in the display, what I loved about this section are the meats that were hanging above the counter. It gave the entire area a very authentic Italian market feel and reminded me of the trip I took with my parents to Italy way back in the day.

As you can see, opposite the cheese counter is the salumi and formaggi counter where they take the cured meats and cheese they sell and create antipasto dishes for you. While I didn’t get to order anything this time, I will definitely be back soon to try one of their plates! Plus, it’s probably easier to try their cured meats at this counter than figuring out their choices over five large barrels of cheese at the other counter…

Directly behind the food court is another sitting area for those who wanted to try Italian wine or any meat or seafood dishes. The area resembles a restaurant more than a casual food court and there is a different menu you can order from. I didn’t get to snag a peek at the menu, but I definitely loved the aesthetics of this sitting area.

As you can tell from the last few photos above, directly past the food counter section was a large wine selection with a sitting area and a bar at the end (featuring my roommate from the summer!) that had its own curated selection of the best Italian wines. If you were curious as to what wine you ordered and wanted to purchase your own bottle for the road, there was a small rack by the bar with the exact same selection!

The Supermarket

So now that we’ve passed the produce section, the pantry section, and the food court, we are headed for the actual supermarket! This was by far my favorite part of Eataly. There was fresh seafood, handmade spaghetti and linguini (including my all time favorite squid ink spaghetti), handmade bread and flatbread selections, Italian dairy products (don’t ask me what the difference between an Italian cow and an American cow is, because I honestly do not know), and small snacks.

I actually purchased the squid ink spaghetti which was probably the most anticlimactic thing ever because you couldn’t fully taste the squid ink in the spaghetti. What they did was add drops of it into the dough, enough for the squid ink color to dye it black, not enough for the flavor to fully come out. A little ball of the spaghetti costed about $2.50, which to be honest is not bad at all. It was a very filling portion and could be suited for one giant meal or two smaller ones. Next time, I will definitely look for squid ink itself to add to my spaghetti. The price is probably higher, but the jar would last longer and through many more meals rather than a ball of slightly flavored homemade spaghetti.

In the next section, there were freshly made flatbreads and a bakery. They had a broccoli rabe and mushroom flatbread tester out which was delicious but a little too salty. I still appreciated it, just probably with something else to wash it down. If you loved the flatbreads or artisan breads enough, you could even purchase the Italian flour to make your own flatbread or bake your own bread! I’m no savvy baker, but if you are, by all means go for it and let me know how it tastes!

At the very end of the supermarket was a sit-down restaurant where the chefs made homemade meals with some of the groceries surrounding you. While I didn’t dive too far into the menu to see how many of the ingredients of the dishes the marketplace carried, I was very excited by the featured items on the chalkboard menu as I could see the same ingredients around me (in the aisles in the previous photos) and learn how to make my own version of the dish.

If you turn the corner from the restaurant, you run into a small cute summer fling bar with delicious aperol spritzers and citrus summer cocktails! While the bar was closed the day I went, I’m very excited to return and try a few drinks out another day before their summer specials end.

The Rooftop Kitchen & Bar

It’s finally time we head up to the rooftop! Sabbia (meaning Sand in Italian) is the name of the Italian seafood pop-up restaurant on the roof created by the original restaurant La Birreria. La Birreria has a microbrewery as well, allowing you to enjoy the food with a side of crafted beer. The retractable rooftop allows you to enjoy the skyline, stars, and your meal in any season too!

Isn’t this the cutest place ever?! I’m absolutely in love with the beach themed umbrellas and strings of lights. Once the sun set, it created a beautiful aura in the restaurant as if you were dining under the lights by the sea. It was terrible for photography, but I appreciate the mood it created.

My favorite part about Sabbia aesthetically was the adorable bruschetta bar in the back corner. I couldn’t get great quality photos because of the dim evening lighting, but it was full of fresh ingredients, oysters, and seafood. I ended up ordering the Bruschetta Bar platter of their five types of bruschette and a frozen rosé beverage.

The frozen rosé was delicious and priced at $15. There wasn’t anything highly special in particular but it was a great way to end a summer Sunday. The five bruschetta looked small, but were actually quite filling. They were:

  • Liguria (marinated artichoke, basil pesto & parmigiano reggiano)
  • Puglia (broccoli rabe pesto & burrata)
  • Campania (roasted cherry tomatoes, housemate mozzarella & basil)
  • Lombardia (stone fruit marmellata, marscapone & basil)
  • Piemonte (creamery butter and salted anchovies)

My favorite was Liguria because the flavors meshed very well with each other. The zest of the pesto mixed with aroma of the cheese was a great way to start my dinner. I’m not an artichoke fan, but the pieces of artichoke were slim enough that they did not interfere with the pesto or cheese.

My least favorite is a tie between Puglia and Piemonte. Puglia just tasted very odd to me because in my opinion the broccoli rabe didn’t taste that great with burrata. I felt like I was eating something mushy as it sat onto of semi-hard but slightly soft broccoli florets. The smell of it also reminded me of baby food. I don’t know what fancy baby eats broccoli and burrata, but it must be a bougie one. The Piemonte bruschetta had anchovies on it, so it was already a loss to begin with. While the butter complimented the saltiness of the anchovies, it was just incredibly overly salty. This bruschetta would have been a little more pleasant and less dehydrating if the anchovies were cut into smaller bits and in a smaller portion.

The entire plate was one of the cheaper items on the menu costing $24. I was not as impressed with it as I wanted to be. At the end of the day, I was voluntarily eating hardened sourdough bread with some fluff on it for dinner, so I’m not sure what I expected. I will say that the bread was way too hard making it painful to crunch into. Bruschetta definitely needs to be on hard bread, but not that hard. I think that it would have been a better deal to purchase just one flavor of the bruschetta (which would come in 2 pieces) and something else on the side. I will say that the entire platter was much more filling than it seemed, so they redeemed themselves there.

I tried the squid ink spaghetti, a broccoli rabe flatbread, and a few pieces of my friends’ dishes. Overall, I give Eataly a solid 4/5 stars and Sabbia 3/5 stars. I think I should have chosen a different dish at Sabbia that day, because I’m not sure if it was just my platter or if their bread is constantly the texture of a brick square. But if that is how their bread is and this was one of their more popular dishes, I’m not sure anything else would have been better. I will definitely come back and try other food counters in Eataly though! Until then, I’ll just eat my box of prosciutto from their marketplace happily.

OVERALL RATING

AESTHETICS: 8/10

ATMOSPHERE: 8/10

MENU SELECTION: 7/10

AUTHENTICITY OF DISHES: 9/10

FOOD: 7/10

DRINKS: 7/10

SERVICE: 8/10

PRICE POINT: $$-$$$

Notes: Should you come here if you’re in town? I enjoyed the atmosphere and service greatly! I think that I prefer the marketplace and food counters downstairs much more than the restaurant, but I am also willing to give it another try and not order from the bruschetta bar.

Bon appétit, mes chéries!

 

 

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