I went back to Eataly last night with my cousin around 10:30. Prime time to go wander the aisles of merchandise. I was really able to spend some time with the products and read the signs above each category that explained the region and a little background about the ingredients.
And I met Mario Batali!!!! I couldn’t walk by without saying hello. He was sitting at a bar with 2 other people. I gauged the intensity of the conversation and felt confident about interrupting. I congratulated him, told him I was a culinary student rambled on about being Italian and also mentioned how I came in yesterday and felt overwhelmed but today was a prefect time to browse. In the middle of my rambling he commented on how blue my eyes were, I smiled thanked him and awkwardly continued talking. At least I’ll have a frame of reference for the next time I barge in on his conversations. The culinary student with the blue eyes.
I picked up a nice variety of items to try this weekend:
Crema Nocciole- A hazelnut spread
Moreno Cedroni Plum and Ginger Jam – the sign said: Moreno Cedroni is one of the most famous gourmands in Italy, two-starred Michelin Chef, and has produced these sauces and compotes.
Omelette aromatic spices from organic farming. The brand name is Valverbe. Spice mix includes some rare herbs I’ve never heard of: mallow, nettle, balsam and of course shallot, parsley, and thyme.
LavAzza Coffee – a brand I’ve seen all over Italy
And my favorite shaped pasta! The sign said: Pasta shaped like Naples famous volcano, vesuvius, produced with specially selected drum wheat semolina that is appreciated for its low levels of mineral impurities derived from milling. The pasta is shaped with bronze dyes to give its surface a roughness that allows the sauce to perfectly coat the pasta, and goes exceptionally well with sausage sauce, which I’ve used it for. Actually a Mario Batali recipe!
Yesterday at precisely 6:42 EST marked the historic event of me entering the doors to Eataly. While the places was jam-packed with people I still managed to take the time to get friendly with the products and stations. From a design and layout perspective the place is flawless. positively magnificent in it’s grandeur and product placements. I love the signage and simple clean photography of products.
I would best compare my experience to walking through an Italian food museum or exhibit. Lots of looking but not so much interaction, except when I accidentally touched a huge wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Also, the display signs are really good and explaining different types of meat, pairings and regions of certain ingredients. I was pretty overwhelmed and I think what they need is area specialist to help inform you about products and answer questions (the make-believe job I had in my head that I thought they would hire me for). With 47 different bottles of Olive Oil how do I know which one is good without just blindly picking one with a pretty label and a decent price tag?
While I didn’t notice much prepared food, the restaurants were packed! And I picked out Lidia tucked away in a little corner at one of the bars. As my friend and I stood there stalking her, Joe, her son came walking by and we had a chance to shake his hand (after I wiped off the Parmigiano grease from my hands) and congratulate him on the opening.
Before we left I had a gelato with hazelnut and raspberry. The hazelnut was delicious, very authentic flavor. I was a little disappointed that the gelato came out of tin buckets rather than scooped out of the big long display cases traditional to the gelateria’s in Italy.
I’m still not confident on the success of the retail part, but hopefully the restaurants and soon to open brewery will keep the place going. Maybe I’ll go back in a month from now and spend some more time with the products and do some taste testing. If anything I’ll go buy some cheese and fresh pasta!
Anyone who’s been there would love to get your feedback!
For about a year now, I have been stalking the opening of Mario Batali and company’s Eataly. A mecca for a little Italian girl living in Chelsea. After writing a very thoughtful cover letter and sending my resume I received a call for an interview! I diligently did my homework on all the Eataly’s across Italy and stepped into the wine cellar of Del Posto for my interview. Armed with all the right answers the man who interviewed me was very interested in my background, but my majestic visions of this Italian wonderland deflated like a balloon after he called it a grocery store on more than one occasion and the best place he thought to put me was at a customer service desk. The position I thought I was interviewing for was a sales job, and I figured I would be the cheese master, or the knowledge behind all olive oil or something like that. Alas, they offered me a job at the pasta bar for $10 an hour. I think at the time, what was holding be back the most was a complicated vision in my mind’s eye of what this place was going to be like. And of course the $10 an hour and abandoning CitiField before the season was over.
As usual the universe has it’s way of intervening into my life’s decisions. That very same day of my interview I was on the phone with one of my guests for the Brooklyn Cyclones and she mentioned the DDL Food Show a similar concept to Eatly, that crashed and burned in the 80s. We talked about the major carbon foot print the store will have and not to mention some of the bad press Batli has received about underpaying his staff. Personally from a marketing standpoint is there even a target audience for a place like this? The price points will have a major impact on how well it does. I can see it maybe doing well at lunch time in the cooler months when standing on line at the Shake Shack suddenly isn’t too appealing. From a neighborhood standpoint a couple blocks away the new Trader Joes just opened and in the other direction there is Whole Foods. And a lot of times for me, the little Garden of Eden is most convenient.
Time will tell, and I will definitely follow-up next week when I visit the store first-hand.
Until then here is an article from Eater with some pictures. The space looks nice and the thought of a vegetable butcher sounds fun!