Posts Tagged ‘Joe Bastianich’

OCD with Batali at Eataly

I am not obssessed with Batali/Bastianich eateries.. I am not obsessed with Batali/Bastianich eateries… I am not.

One just must understand that when I bark for mealtime and dish after dish is placed in front of me that continues to satisfy every epicurean cell of my being, I will return for that gastronomic experience like a loyal puppy. And so, Mario Batali has collared me and walked me to numerous establishments in New York City to lap up some luscious morsels that make me want to run around in circles over. There is one place that leaves me in the center of a culinary carnival with difficult choices to make whichever direction I face. That is the wonder of Eataly – an Italian food market modeled after the one in Turin, Italy. Mario Batali, Lidia & Joe Bastianich, and Founder Oscar Farinetti have joined together to bring this permanent food festival to NYC.

Walking into Eataly feels like you’ve entered a European cafe with hightop tables for those ordering gelato and/or coffee. As you traverse the center aisle, smells of Italian products waft through the air – from packaged Baci chocolates to

Sicilian breaded Swordfish

cheeses and cured meats. The carnival really begins when you turn the corner to the counter of La Piazza, where crowds are standing at marble tabletops, delighting in platters of salumi and formaggi, sipping on wine. The making of fresh mozzarella is displayed. If you make it past here without ordering something, your will is stronger than mine. Two eateries are eye-cathingly at the center: Le Verdure, which pops with colorful plates of fresh, local, seasonal products but no meat, and Il Pesce, serving seafood dishes with all the fish coming from Eataly’s Seafood Counter. This is the place I found myself sitting twice. Although you are essentially dining in the center of a ‘supermarket’, it feels nothing like a

Grilled Cod on roasted corn w/basil, yellow/red grape tomatoes

Grilled Shrimp and mixed greens w/speck, roasted figs & balsamic reduction

food court and everything like a piazza with the case of fresh made pastas being sold just across the way. The sight and smell of the plate in front of me tend to take full hold of my attention to notice much else.

There are 12 eateries in total to feast upon, which guarantees you’ll need to return for a different meal. They vary from casual pizza and pasta to a new rooftop beer garden to an upscale “meat palace”. Because each place is so specialized, the only problem lies in that everyone in your group needs to be in the mood for the same type of food (meat, fish etc.). If there’s a vegetarian, and there’s someone that wants fish, they’ll be eating in separate quarters but can meet up at the dessert or espresso counter or to shop afterwards.

Food and Italy – since they seem almost synonymous, Eataly is a harmonious combination of both that everyone should rejoice in at least once.

Hail Mario!

I feel like a princess whenever I set foot in one of the castles of the Mario Batali/Joe Bastianich empire. And it has absolutely nothing to do with prices because comparatively speaking, these restaurants are very inexpensive with the exception of Del Posto – and with very good reason. As soon as I sit down on a Batali chair, I feel like I am being waited on hand and foot. A certain magic wand is waved upon each dish before it is delivered.

So I was in the mood for some dishes that we don’t typically order. Don’t get me wrong – the house-aged prosciutto is a fantastic staple, and the gelato desserts at Otto are a light and delightful way to end a meal, but it was time to head back to Lupa. The prosciutto popped off the menu, and I gritted my teeth when the waitress came over, so as not to say “prosciu…” No, I’m going to try something that I would never order elsewhere because, frankly, I don’t really care for mushrooms, unless it’s portabella. But with Mario, it doesn’t matter if you don’t like a particular food. You could order poop on a platter, and somehow you’ll be fantasizing about that delicious platter for weeks to follow.

I said it: “I’ll have the roasted mushrooms with the cavolo nero and shaved ricotta.” The cavolo nero, we were informed, is a type of kale, but not as bitter. Did I really order that? Oh, and thank goodness I did! It was hen-of -the-wood mushrooms, fully of earthiness, and the greens were shredded and also roasted, giving them a little bit of a crisp. All that was topped with a hard ricotta, adding a bit of saltiness. Wow.

Then, the seafood spoke loudly to us off the menu: Red Snapper with Sunchokes, Grapefruit & Rapini (broccoli rabe) landed in front of me. The skin on the snapper..oh yes, crispy again..was balanced by the soft sunchoke puree and the refreshing, cool citrus. There was zero bitterness to the rapini. It was like fresh greens from the garden.

 

In front of him swam in the Fluke with Lentils, Bitter Greens & Agrumato, which is an extra-virgin olive oil pressed with lemons. Without wanting to interpret the flow of taste and the perfectly crafted combination coming off of my plate, I waited until I was finished to taste the fluke. It was another winner but a close second.

Finally, the dessert round was nearing. Unlike Otto, Lupa offers more than gelato. And while Otto’s gelato combinations are works of art unto themselves, I needed something a little more solid. The olive oil torta and roasted pears fit that criteria. I immediately recalled the first time I heard “olive oil gelato” at Otto and cringed until it touched the tip of my tongue. There was no cringing this time when I heard “olive oil” as an adjective to torta.

The Apician Spiced Dates & Mascarpone was a healthier choice, but three dates instead of two large ones might have made it a more worthy contender. I leave the Batali/Bastianich abode smiling once again. More to follow on Otto.