Pasta and Pizza and Pesce, OH MY! Eataly boasts these specialties and many, many more while – admittedly – coming off a tad bit theatrical. What can you do, though? This is New York. We love our Italian food and we love our flair and if you don’t? Well, then, I don’t know, maybe get off my blog? And don’t come to New York? You know. Just saying...
The Tourist: EATALY
Best For: Date night. Yes, it’s 50,000+ square feet, but it’s always jam packed and, last time I checked, the place doesn’t take reservations. Getting a table for 2 is way easier than 3+. Fact.
The Atmosphere: Casually put-together yet bustling. Located at 200 5th ave. in Flatiron, Eataly sprawls out over an entire avenue in one massive space. Maneuvering about the place, guests can visit any of the 7 markets that flow into and around one another, all the while purchasing high-quality and often made-in-house groceries in between. Each market, or “mini restaurant” as I see it, is organized by food group (e.g. vegetables, meats, pasta, etc.). Upon entry, guests are encouraged to take “how-to” pamphlets that include a map of the sprawling space and all its food groups. It is one part learning, one part interactive and certainly many parts delicious.
You’ll spend: A small fortune if you’re not careful. (for those on a budget, see the "suggested approach" below.)
Tip: Visit Eataly on a week day/night when it's less overwhelming. If you're intent on going Fri-Sat, either make a night of it and head over around 9PM or, better yet, stroll in during off hours (think: 2PM or 5PM). When taking advantage of less traditional meal times, you'll beat the rush, enjoy the experience, and give yourself plenty of time to digest all that Italian goodness prior to going out later.
Suggested Approach: First, grab a pamphlet and do a lap to get your bearings. Then, visit the rooftop biergarten for a drink. Here is where you will take in some of Manhattan’s most charming views, including a close-up of the Flatiron building, while coming up with your master plan on how to digest Eataly. After you’ve collected yourself, mosey downstairs and grab a bottle of wine. At Eataly, you can cruise about the entire space with wine in hand. So, pick up your glasses and select a mini restaurant where you can grab a plate or two to share. After you’ve satisfied your palate, head over to the grocery aisle for a gorgeous ball of homemade mozzarella, a loaf of fresh-baked bread and a bottle olive oil so exceptional it is sold exclusively at Eataly. Engage the employees in conversation and you may even learn a thing a two.
Either way, you will now have all the perfect ingredients for a picnic. Plus, you should still have at least half a bottle of wine, so long as you are not a lush. In the case that you are indeed a lush, this is where you would simply go purchase another bottle of wine prior to heading over to our next spot…
The Local: Madison Square Park
While any square foot of green space in Manhattan is a coveted gem, certain parks have a way of feeling like miniature treasures. NYU's Washington Square Park is one such park; Madison Square Park is another.
Throughout warmer months, concert-goers can enjoy a range of free and relaxed shows by the talented up-and-comers. Year-round, the park conservancy also hosts internationally renowned art exhibits. Of course, simply sitting and enjoying a quiet 6 acres in the heart of downtown Manhattan ain't all that bad, either.
NOTE: Technically, drinking in public in New York is illegal. Or, it’s at least frowned upon in most places. However, as long as you’re being discrete and polite about it, no one gives a shit. Simply refrain from breaking bottles and unceremoniously popping a squat, and you’ll likely be fine.
That all being said, Madison Square Park is the perfect place to pour a paper cup of wine and enjoy that delectable spread you just picked up at Eataly. Nestled in from the streets by walkways and trees, the park is just large enough to feel spacious and small enough to be comforting. There is, of course, no want of people-watching anywhere in New York, but especially not here.
Lay out your blanket, enjoy your treats and indulge in a good conversation or get lost in a book for a bit. Afterward, pick up your parcels and head east for drinks at the oldest bar in town (quite literally) Pete's Tavern, which is sure to end up on a Tangent Pursuit post one of these days...