I finally made a little trip to Eataly. No, I'm not a bad speller, I'm talking about the Italian mega-marketplace in Flatiron. I will have to return one of these days to try some of the restaurants because I hear they are fab - but this was a shopping-only excursion. I was making dinner with my mom in Queens, and if there's one thing my mom loves, it's fresh bread and cheese. Fortunately this place has boatloads of both.
The outside of Eataly is BEYOND deceiving. Even me, who has read about this place tons of times and seen pictures, was skeptical of the size. I stood there on 5th ave to take a picture of the awning and thought "THIS is IT?" Well I pushed the door open and stepped inside to 50,000 square feet of Italian overload; gelato, espresso, Gianduja chocolates, wine, paninis, pasta, fresh meat and cheese, and basically…fresh anything. There's even a produce section where the "vegetable butcher" will wash and chop your vegetables for you. Nifty! It's a beautiful space, but it's a little overwhelming in my opinion. There's so many varieties of everything, that it makes for a slightly stressful shopping experience. "Do I want 8-month, 12-month or 24-month dry-aged prosciutto?" And don't get me started on the cheeses. Stilton? Robiola? Saffron Sheep Cheese?? Yea no problem, but good luck finding the mozzarella.
That said, variety isn't a problem in certain areas, like the breads. The "Paneterria" had just enough of a selection that you could browse each one, maybe ask a question or two, then make an informed decision. I went with two breads: the classic baguette and the "Rustic" bread with pancetta and provolone. HELL. YES. This bread was awesome. It had an earthy, nutty taste, and you can smell the provolone as you bite into it, along with the peppery chunks of pancetta. I hear they have a "Rustic" bread with figs in it that's also delicious..
I liked the Piazza, or the standing table "enoteca in the heart of Eataly" with marbled countertops surrounded by salumi & formaggi stations and wine sommeliers. Eataly has over 700 wines and 400 cheeses by the way, so let's just say I'd be more than happy to park my ass there for an hour or so and sample some of each. The Piazza also has a menu you can choose from, though I'll tell you right now it was pricey. They also have Pizza and Pasta sections, and the aromas emanating from them were bananas. Not literally – I'd say it was more like tomatoes.
The long and short of it is this: if you like Italian specialty stores, Eataly is like mecca. I'm pretty sure they have everything you could possibly want for your Italian culinary needs. They even have cookware and cookbook sections! Fantastic. And fun fact: You still have 2 weeks to reap the benefits of Chocolate Month at Eataly (Feb 14th – March 14th). Believe it or not, most of the chocolate specialties are pretty affordable. I snagged a few Gianduj0ttos for 50 cents each on my way out. Giandujottos are little chocolate/hazelnut bites that melt in your mouth and probably in your hand too. It's a very creamy milk chocolate, and while I always prefer dark, this was a smooth, hazelnutty delight. There's also chocolate and banana gelato (loveee gelato) for $3.90 a cup, hot chocolate for $1, chocolate colaziones (chocolate-filled croissants) for $2, and Pane al Cioccolato (chocolate bread) for $1.80. It's sweetened with honey and Italian dark chocolate chips. I picked one up as I was browsing around the store. I had to I got hungry. And let's be honest, Italians don't like you to go hungry..