Thursday, September 30, 2010

What's Eataly'n You?

An incredible new Italian food emporium opened recently in NYC.  It's got fresh Italian cheeses, fresh Italian charcuterie, fresh Italian bread, fresh Italian fish -- oh, wait, I guess they could be Italian-American fish.

But there's produce that a produce person armed with Ginsu knives will chop up right in front of you, ala Benihana, whose chefs don't seem that Italian.  There's also an Italian wine shop, a gelato bar, a chocolate counter and Italian coffee caffe.

It's Eataly! This 42,500-square-foot food emporium in Manhattan's Flatiron district is the brainchild of superstar chefs Mario Batali and Lydia Bastianich, and Batali's long-time partner and Lydia's son Joe Bastianich.  It's also their homage to the slow food movement. 

So, if you like to eat Italian food, head somewhere else.  Or spend a few hours buying all your groceries here, standing on 8 different lines, and then heading home to cook it yourself.  Or wait 90 minutes or so to snag a spot at one of their "restaurants."

Mike: "Why are we doing this?  What kind of business plan IS THIS?! I'm hungry and we're surrounded by food we can't eat!"
Me: "It's fun, it's new.  Just be patient.  We'll figure it out."
Mike: "I don't want to figure out how to eat.  We can go to The Village and be eating in 20 minutes."
Ryan: "I want to eat NOW, not even in 20 minutes.  Let's leave!"

As much as I hate to agree with Mike and mini-Mike, they were right.  Eataly is a food mall where you you can't eat, unless you don't mind waiting an hour+ for a table at one of their "restaurants" which are smack dab in the middle of the food supermarket, where every hipster, granny or snot-nosed whiny kid can stare at you and your food and wonder, usually out loud, "Why do THEY have a table?!"

And I mean table.  Not every table even has a seat.  People were just standing there in the middle of the madness with people banging into them as they nibbled their Italian cheese platter and sipped their  Italian wine -- all while being badgered with questions like, "How did you get this table?  Where did you get that cheese platter?  Where do you get bread?  Why are you not letting me eat your food?!"

Nuts is the only way to describe it.  You want cheese? Stand at the cheese counter for a half-hour.  You want salami?  Stand at the meats counter.  Same with bread.  Or produce.  You stand on a different line for each category of food you want, and then go on a hunt for the check-out, which is located on the other side of the block, I mean, the food mall.  How many people are just going to scarf their food without bothering to find the cashier, that's what I'd like to know.  

The Record newspaper ran a story recently about the place.  One of Eataly's people said patrons will learn about not just eating, but cooking.  The person actually said, and I quote (from The Record): "People will come to us and buy bread, buy prosciutto, buy a tomato and have us slice it, buy mozzarella, take it to the park and eat it.  And that is cooking." 

Really?!  I'm half Irish, and even I don't consider that to be cooking!!  Good to know, though, next time somebody asks what I'm scarin' up for dinner.

We did get a selection of formaggio and charcuterie only took an hour to procure, as well as a loaf of bread and lemon soda.  I wanted wine, but never did find the wine shop amidst the crush of humanity. 

We hovered over an errant table that was shoved against a wall, slapped our stuff together with bits of bread and savored the Italian goodness.  Within minutes, though, we were on red-alert, as the passersby thought we were running a sampling station.  The four of us formed a blockade around out table, backs to the bastards, as we scarfed our cheese and prosciutto like ravenous hyenas.

Granted our cheese, cured meats and bread was very delicious.  And as fun as I've made the whole experience sound, I don't really see us putting in the effort to repeat it anytime soon.  We experienced their slow food movement.  But I'm afraid it's a crusade that will have to go on without us.