Lunch at Le Verdure in Eataly

Sweet Corn Bruschetta at Le Verdure in Eataly
 There's a new food frenzy happening in midtown Manhattan. We've all seen the lines at Shake Shack. We've learned the color-coded check-out system of WholeFoods, and the partner-required navigation of Trader Joe's Wines on a Saturday. Be it food, wine, or just a great deal, New Yorker's love having the best of anything, and we're willing to queue endlessly for it.

Now we have Eataly, a newly opened Italian market and eatery born from a partnership between Mario Batali, Lidia and Joe Batianich, and the concept's founder Oscar Farinetti. After hearing first about the mega-market from a colleague, and then finding the massive spread in Food & Wine this month, I decided to do more research. The concept is basically to share the Italian food "experience" in a market and eatery environment. They are focused on the concepts of fresh, high quality ingredients that are sourced locally and imported, as sustainably as possible.

I have heard Eataly is a madhouse at lunchtime, so the weekend is better. Twitter posts told me that 10am on a Saturday is the best. Yelp reviewers found it nearly impossible to navigate the crowds, totally impossible to get a table after 11:30 am - and some of the counters close at 2:30pm!! As I rushed to get ready to leave on Saturday, I felt thoroughly stressed out about the decision to try lunching at Eataly. I thought the Italian food experience was supposed to be laid back?

Seating Point - long line of people waiting for tables.
We arrived at the 5th Avenue entrance to find either a doorman or a bouncer - not really sure. We entered a hall packed with people clamoring for coffee, pastries and gelato. We tried to find our favorite chocolate in the shop but were too overwhelmed by the crowds. We had decided ahead of time to try Le Verdure, one of many table service cafés, that serves only vegetarian foods. We found the seating point and jumped in line just before most people realized the procedure. The hall was a sea of tourists and couples trying to figure out the lay of the land, many trying to lay claim to empty tables without seeing the hostess. Rule #1 in New York - if you see a line, get in it. Immediately. Then find out what you're waiting for. We were thrilled to be informed there was a 20 minute wait, and we could walk and shop meanwhile.
Tables and counter seating at Le Verdure
Walking through Eataly is more like trying to get from point A to point B in a crowded amusement park or festival. You have to hold hands, or tug on shirts, walk sideways, and hop over roving children, all while trying to look around at the goods. There were so many tempting products: fresh produce, unique pasta shapes, hand-made mozzarellas, endless varieties of olive oils, vinegars and such. Unfortunately, I am not sure I'd ever want to battle these crowds just for a couple of hard to find items - but I know where to go if I find myself with a recipe with obscure Italian ingredients.

Le Verdure menu
Our lunch at Le Verdure was fantastic. Maybe it had something to do with the delicious bottle of 2007 Dolcetto we got totally tipsy on at 2 in the afternoon. But I doubt it. The service was well trained and on point with suggestions. We chose two specials: sweet corn bruschetta with roasted garlic, chives and tarragon and the heirloom tomato and radish salad. Both were unbelievable fresh, crisp and simple. You could taste the outstanding quality of the oils and vinegars. We also tried the caponata, a cold eggplant salad with capers, olives, tomatoes, pine nuts and raisins served with arugula and toast. We loved the balance of salty, tangy and sweet, so it's definitely a dish I'd hope to recreate.

Heirloom Tomato and Radish salad
 Overall, it's worth a trip to Eataly, just be prepared to be patient with the crowds.

More information:
Eataly New York
NY Post
Food & Wine

**Mario's Eataly recipes
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