Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Visit to Eataly/New York

On our way to Italy for our recent tour, Nancy and I stopped for a few days in New York to see Rob, Janet and Cece. I had read earlier this year about the opening of the latest Eataly store in the Flatiron District (23rd and Fifth), and in fact Rob had managed to visit and get his photo taken with Mario Batali, part of the group behind the US venture (I am surprised the crowd of rabid New York foodies did not descend upon Mario like a school of piranha).

When I first heard the name “Eataly” it sounded so tacky that I assumed it must be an American creation. However, in fact the first Eataly was opened in Torino in 2007 by a fellow named Oscar Farinetti who had previously owned one of the largest electronics retailers in Italy (which I guess means if you can sell tape recorders you can sell artisanal cheese and salumi). Although I do not know the details, the Slow Food organization reportedly serves as a “strategic consutant” to the company.

Additional stores in Italy followed that first store in Torino, and, in fact, while on our tour we drove past a new one in Monticello d’Alba in Piemonte that was scheduled to open the following week.

So one morning while we were in New York I hopped a subway and headed downtown to see the new store. The following layout shows the broad range of products offered.

The store is quite impressive although a bit overwhelming (especially given the crowds). As can be seen from the layout, it is in an “L” shape with entrances on both 23rd and 5th. The individual product areas are somewhat compartmentalized and there is really no where in the store where you can get a real overview of the entire space. A nice touch is that most of the signs are in both English and Italian, and they spend a good deal of effort to identify the producers of the products and the regions from which they come. It would take quite some time to carefully explore everything they have to offer, but would be fun to do so. Here is a video I came across that gives a pretty good sense of the place.

After wandering around a bit I grabbed a seat at the bar in the Manzo [i.e. beef] Ristorante and ordered a carne cruda made with “Piemontese beef.” This is apparently beef from a breed called the Razza Piemontese which originally came from the Piemonte region. Given that raw meat cannot be imported from Italy, the beef is currently being raised for Eataly/New York by Brewer Ranch in Miles City, Montana.

According to the Eataly materials,
“In addition to its unparalleled taste, Piemontese beef is beloved by Italy, America and Eataly for being lower in saturated fat and higher in poly-unsaturated fat (the good fat). It’s the avocado of beef!”

The beef was excellent, although I can do without phrases like “the avocado of beef.”

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