Eataly, New York.

February 2016.

NYCs love affair with Italian food consummates like a smooth-talking Roman satyr climbing all over the Statue of Liberty in this massive facility near Madison Square Park in south Midtown. Italian food for sale is presented and celebrated so helpless enthusiasts like me have to be physically held away from smelling and grabbing at everything we see. Seven restaurants offhandedly provide top-end mostly simple Tuscan and other Italiano fare at sensible prices. It’s a 50,000 ft.² main floor and more, of what could have been a department store or something else previously, a big brick building at the corner of 23rd Street and Fifth Avenue.

Italian Master entrepreneur Oscar Farinetti started Eataly in Turin in 2007. The New York instantiation opened in 2010 and has been wildly successful, for good reason. The food market presents flawless generic products grouped individually: meat, fish, delicatessen, pasta, vegetables, ice cream, chocolate, coffee, wine, bakery… Prices are premium but the quality, variety and presentation deliver value. There are cafés, a cooking school, events of various kinds. It’s an artificial upscale small village focused on the wonderful food of Italy, smack in the middle of Manhattan.

We wandered the market pretty well agape, and then headed up the elevator to Baita, called an Italian Alps winter restaurant, perched under a retractable roof with heaters, open December to March. Three of us made short work of a bottle of delicious Sicilian white, and a wooden plate of mixed Piedmontese meat, cheese, and pickled veg cold delicacies. Ready for pasta, our guide (my nephew Boyd) suggested we repair to the main floor, where we inhaled absolutely perfect pasta, a dozen choices, for example penne with brussels sprouts, sweet sausage, chile flake, lemon and pecorino romano.

Another glass of wine.

Go in the morning if you don’t want to have to fight crowds. It’s hard to score in my usual way a spectrum like this. Food overall would have to be a 9, service depends on the venue, I obviously find the atmosphere exciting, and the value is there although prices may be high. I’ll definitely be dropping in next time I’m in town.

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 30 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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