We feared that the stakes were too high for Eataly. Like Caesar's Rome (another case of too much Italian ambition), the much-delayed Italianate superstore by culinary dream team Mario Batali, Oscar Farinetti and Joe and Lidia Bastianich seemed destined to be struck down by vengeful gods.
But we worried needlessly: Eataly lives up to its hype. In addition to a wine store, a kitchenware department and a cookbook section, the space boasts seven restaurants (including a knock-out pizzeria and a vegetarian spot) that offer fuel for the weary shopper.
Leaving the cooking entirely in their hands would be a mistake, though, as this market is intended to draw out your culinary ambitions by acting as a professionally stocked pantry. Armed with a recipe like Lidia's Paccheri Pasta with Seafood (click here to download), anyone can play chef at home.
Start at the fishmonger's station for scallops, littleneck clams and mussels--all vetted that morning by Dave Pasternack. From there, cross over to the pasta station, which is stocked with freshly stretched and shaped noodles--including your paccheri. Make a detour to the bakery (for bread still warm from the wood-fired oven) and the cheese station (choose fresh mozzarella or creamy Taleggio) to pick up a few snacks to munch on while you cook, then finish up at the produce station.
Like the best sous-chefs, the staff at Eataly will even wash your parsley for you.
Eataly, 200 Fifth Ave. (at W. 23rd St.); 212-229-2560 or eatalyny.com
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