I love all things Batali. I love his approach and enthusiasm for simple, pure, high quality ingredients. I love his zest for life and all things Italian. I love his larger than life personality. I love his cookbooks. I love his food. I love his restaurants.
Eataly is Mario Batali’s latest, greatest undertaking to bring the finest ingredients Italy has to offer to the above average New Yorker. Simple, pure, and high quality do not come cheap. Eataly will delight gourmands and cooks alike. Located at 23rd and 5th in a city which pretty much offers the world on a platter, Eataly takes its place among the finest markets in New York City.
Rob and I decide to shop at Eataly and have our main meal of the day in the marketplace this last day, a Sunday, that we are to spend in the city. The market is jam packed with New Yorkers shopping for their nightly meal and with curious tourists. Eataly features a cafe and several restaurants which are open to the shopping area. Enjoy your meal while gazing around at the seafood market or fresh mozzarella being made in front of you, or turn your back to the gaggle of shoppers and quietly watch the line cooks.
After touring the seafood beds, vegetable stands, shelves of chestnut and forest honeys, preserves, jellies and jams, bushels of fresh almonds, morels, chanterelles and countless other fresh mushroom selections, heirloom tomatoes, bakery and racks of fresh hot cross buns and loaves of soft olive oil bread, a deli counter of Parma hams, prosciutto, and pancetta, a restaurant quality butcher counter with items like pig cheeks and veal porterhouse steaks, a salumi counter, fresh mozzarella made that morning, prepared foods and salads to take away, wine and beer selection, kitchenware and cookbooks, a drool-worthy selection of dolce, including limoncello cakes, hazelnut tarts, truffles, elegant chocolate cupcakes and other Italian sweets, coffee, more varieties and styles of dried pasta than I even knew existed, fresh pastas, a large olive oil and vinegar selection, and local product and produce when available, we chose to have a seat, a meal and a well earned glass of wine at Manzo.
Manzo is the most formal of the eateries in the market. The restaurant features the meat of the United States and former Babbo chef Michael Toscano uses all parts of the animal. Manzo is a complete dining experience with antipasti, pasta, mains and dessert courses.
Settling into high-backed stools at the bar overseeing the mise-en-place, we peruse the menu and select the mozzarella di Bufala Campana with prosciutto and fettuna as our appetizer. Manzo uses products sold in the market and we had seen the mozzarella being made in our earlier tour. A lovely half bottle of Barbera Briccotondo Fontanafredda is poured into large balloon glasses and we settle back to enjoy each others’ conversation and the buzz of shoppers all around. Curiously, this is not noisy or crowded, and is quite a pleasant atmosphere to dine in.
I’m hungry for pasta and spot a dish on the menu that I hope is reminiscent of a dish I had at Batali’s restaurant, B and B, in Las Vegas on my last visit. Spaghetti alla Chitarra with lobster, tomato and basil. Rob orders Cacciucco, a fish stew, with lobster, scallop, ramps, red chillies, and fregula.
The bufala arrives with thin slices of prosciutto drizzled in good olive oil and Tuscan bread toasted and brushed with olive oil and garlic. The bread is chewy and softened with the oil. The salty ham and mild, fresh cheese is simple and amazing bite after bite. Service is nicely paced to the slow side, allowing us to savour the antipasti and our wine.
Our mains arrive. My pasta is perfectly al dente. The lobster meat is succulent and plentiful. The tomato sauce is orange, rich, and accented by onion, garlic and basil, the perfect marriage. Rob’s stew arrives as a pile of lobster meat on a bed of couscous-like pasta, ramps, chilies, and a perfectly seared sea scallop. Our server arrives and from a pitcher, dispenses a fragrant, deep red broth over the fish. The broth is decadent. It tastes of roasted lobster shells distilled of all of their lobstery essence, with rich, deep flavour. The dish has thin rings of fresno chillies added for eye candy but they add a sweet back heat. Unexpected and delicious.
The portions at Manzo are perfect, allowing us room to share a dessert and cappuccinos. We choose the limoncello torte, with lemon liquor, yogurt and cranberry. The dolce comes with a few pieces of a super-sweet, nougaty meringue. This is perfect because the pudding-like cake and the cranberry relish have just enough sugar to make them palatable. Perfectly tart. Cappuccinos do not disappoint. We have had the most excellent coffee in Rome and have come to expect it in any Batali restaurant. Fabulous meal on all counts.