200 5th Ave
New York, NY 10010
I’ve been to Eataly a countless number of times for fresh pasta, squares of focaccia, some balsamic vinegar, etc., but have never been to the restaurants. The lines are always too long and the reviews too average for me to bother. But since getting back from Italy not too long ago, I’ve been CRAVING Italian food. I’ve been wanting meats, cheeses, wines, pizzas, pastas, ugh! LAW and I were doing some shopping in Flatiron area and decided to “just go to Eataly” since it is right there and we’ve never been.
The wait for La Pizza & La Pasta was an hour so we parked at a corner of a standing table at La Piazza and decided to have some appetizers first. La Piazza is at the center of the bustling supermarket. You find an empty spot and servers come to take your order of various meats, cheeses, and wine. It feels very casual and friendly.
LAW and I shared the Grande Piatto Misto Di Salumi & Formaggi ($22), an assortment of the best meats and cheeses of Eataly. I also had a glass of the Pinot Nero 2011 ($12/glass), a medium bodied fruity red that the server suggested (great suggestion). The platter came with four types of cheeses that ranged in hardness and sharpness. It also came with a salumi, a ham, and three types of prosciuttos. Oh, and ENDLESS delicious sourdoughy bread! So worth the $22.
The platter came with a plate of two types of honey – one with almonds and the other with figs, as well as a few bites of sweet syrupy peaches. The honey and almonds paired with the sharper harder cheeses was my favorite, as the honey and almonds added a crunch, a nuttiness, and a sweetness to the salty crumbly cheese.
Yum. Part of why I love eating meats and cheeses is because I love discovering new flavors. I am by no means a charcuterie or formaggio expert, and I kind of want to keep it that way. It’s like me not wanting to learn to speak French, because if I did, I would hear words rather than pretty sounds (agree?). There’s so much fun involved with discovering flavors with no expectations of what they might be like!
I had so much fun drinkin’ my drank, makin’ my bites, and talking too much, adding to the noise of the piazza. Another big plus for me is the efficient design of the standing tables. There were hooks for jackets and little cubbies built in for people to put their napkins and cameras (me).
We finished our large appetizer, paid, and got a text message from the La Pizza & La Pasta that said our table was ready. Perfect timing. The restaurant is a group of tables hidden behind the aisles of tomato sauces, olive oils, and balsamic vinegars.
I was already pretty full off of the endless bread, meats, and cheeses, but we decided since it was our first time here, we needed to try everything. We had the Margherita pizza ($14) with mozzarella, tomato sauce, fresh basil, and lots of extra virgin olive oil.
The tomato sauce was SO flavorful. Where the hell do they get their tomatoes? It tasted like a large fresh, juicy tomato bursting with sweetness and tartness, smashed to a pulp and spread over a thin, chewy layer of crust. The mozzarella, for some reason, added a creamy smokiness to the pizza. UGH SO GOOD, I WANT MORE.
The almond in the pesto was not ground so finely as nuts normally are in pestos, it was chopped up into little pieces so that they not only added a nutty flavor, but also a crunchy texture. So delicious, garlicky, and olive oil-y.
The linguine had a rougher texture than the normal boxed kind I make at home. It was thicker in the center and slightly tapered off on the sides. So chewy.
The bacon was some high quality stuff, with just enough fat to be juicy but not sickening, enough saltiness to be addicting but not a sodium-overload, and enough fried-ness to be crispy on the edges but still with a nice thickness. I liked my noodles more, because I liked the rougher, thicker linguine. The spaghetti was also very al dente, but had a smoother, rounder texture.
Shoot, forgot to take a picture of the wine I had: the Morellino di Scansano 2011 ($9). I asked the server to suggest a medium, fruity red, and he suggested this one. It happened to be the cheapest on the menu, which was refreshing to see. He was super excited about his choice too, which showed me that he actually really loved this wine. He made sure I wasn’t lying to him when I told him I really liked it before he poured me a healthy goblet sized glass. I had so much fun bouncing around Eataly, first at the Piazza, then at La Pizza & La Pasta. The service was some of the best I’ve had – not pretentious at all, fun, non-intrusive, and decently opinionated (hate it when servers are like a) I’ve actually never had this dish or b) all of the dishes here are great!).
I know the place is touristy. I know it seems like a place that would be overrated. But I am sincerely surprised with the average reviews. I had a great time and ate some of the best simple Italian food I’ve had in NYC. I left belly full, tipsy, and with pasta leftovers (best leftover lunch ever). I’ll be back soon for sure!