TV chefs Lidia Bastianich and Mario Batali joined forces with the help of financier Oscar Farinetti to open “Eataly”. Resembling a traditional Italian market in appearance, every food item for sale is either imported from Italy or made on location using purely Italian ingredients, with the only exception the NY water used to boil the pasta.
The impressively-stocked store hosts a range of places to eat, whether you want a quick nibble or to sit down for a three-course dinner. While there are plenty of edible options there ranging from pizza to meat & cheese platters to full-course meals, I dropped by on my first visit to grab a sandwich. While there were many beautiful-looking options to try, I went with the simplest of the bunch, a baguette with prosciutto di parma. Italian food is all about celebrating simplicity and freshness, so if “Eataly” can turn something as basic as this into something amazing, you know we are in good hands.
The Prosciutto di Parma sandiwch ($6.75) is a hefty and substantial sandwich. The prosciutto was everything that it should be, velvety fat that melts on your mouth, salty and meaty tasting pork that is perfectly seasoned. The baguette, baked fresh on the premise, was wonderfully crusty with a pliable interior, and if you let your sandwich sit for a bit, the bread will naturally soften with that buttery delicious fat from the prosciutto seeping into it. There were some sort of dressings or toppings that I could have had with this, but let’s get to that in a second.
I will do an article that is a full tour of the store on another occasion when I take a second trip there, but I have to admit that my first visit was frustrating and disheartening. The store is huge and broken up into many sections, with no real way of knowing where anything is except by wandering aimlessly (if there was some guide somewhere, I missed it). There was a lot of hustle and bustle with little directions offered in the form of signage, and even less from staff.
Multiple times, staff-members whizzed by me with trays of food or just going from place to place, but not once in the 30 minutes that I spent in “Eataly” did a single person ask if I needed any help. I almost walked out of the place empty-handed due to the lack of effort from the four people working the sandwich counter. Four people, no one at the counter waiting to order but me, and I spent a good five minutes just staring at them, waiting patiently to be helped (they stared back plenty, but never spoke up). In absolute frustration, I backed off and tried to exit, but changed my mind, and luckily a fifth person appeared behind the counter who finally took my order (and neglected to offer me any of the toppings and just wanted me out of the way). Worst part of the story is that this was not during a peak lunch or dinner hour, but a little before 3 PM.
Will I be going back to “Eataly” anytime soon? Yes, as there is plenty more to see and taste and I want to make a full photo tour of the shop, and the sandwich I ordered was tasty. However, I was very unhappy with the service and that truly disappointed me. The workers at this place must take courses from Mario Batali himself on how to act snobbish and arrogant in the face of paying customers. I enjoyed the food, just wish that the service matched the good flavors of my sandwich.
“Eataly” is located on 200 5th Avenue on 23rd Street between 5th & 6th Avenue.