Oh, Eataly. I love to hate you. It’s ridiculous that I do considering I’ve never had a problem with what you have sold me. In fact, I’ve always been very happy. But actually visiting you? Yuck.
One thing that I find unites most New Yorkers is their great annoyance with walking behind/around/in proximity to tourists. New Yorkers have places to go and people to see, and we use the sidewalk as cars use the road: there are rules and there is flow. It’s understandable that tourists are in their own worlds with maps and books and cameras and smartphones (we’ve all been there), but that does not make the experience of getting stuck behind one on your perfectly timed walk from point A to B any less grating. Just ask around on how many locals go to Soho on the weekends or Fifth Avenue in midtown (anytime), and you’ll get some choice words about tourists. Throw general subway and escalator etiquette into the mix, and it’s a wonder we have any friends at all considering how much we can hate on people. Because it’s not just tourists who commit the crimes.
Don’t stop. Walk left. Stand right. Mind your bag. Consider your pace. Don’t block the whole sidewalk with your party.
For me, the experience of going to Eataly mixes all such annoyances. You have a lot of people in a tight space that winds haphazardly and contains nooks and crannies of excitement that seem to pop out of nowhere. Not that it’s disorganized. It’s just a lot of busy. This can make it less than enticing to make a visit to purchase groceries, let alone make a visit to eat from one of Eataly’s restaurants or counters.
For the most part, I’ve only purchased grocery items because it’s the only way that I can ensure I’ll have minimal contact with the gawkers, who tend to gather around the restaurants. But I had read many glowing reviews of the prime rib sandwich from the Rosticceria counter, and during a week when my need for red meat was shaking me to the core, I made my way downtown for a workday lunch adventure.
I don’t ignore my body’s calls for iron because they happen so infrequently. Thus, I obviously ordered the large. The regular is not that much smaller, so when in Rome, right? Fresh, chewy bread, house-roasted meat, olive oil, salt, and pepper. C’est tout. Love at first bite. Perhaps as much for the bread as the meat. It is the kind of sandwich that haunts my dreams: Something substantial that you can get your mitts around and really sink your teeth into. Your jaw fires into action to tear the bread, and your mouth hugs the tender meat. Your hunger is rewarded with a conquering, not just a meal. Add the fact that it was nice enough to sit outside in Madison Square Park instead of having to find a nubbin of space in the Eataly zoo? Perfection.
With this favourable and addictive experience behind me, I had to go back for more. On a Sunday this time, when it was thankfully and actually surprisingly rather calm. This time I went to the I Panini counter and got their daily special with prosciutto, arugula, fresh buffalo mozzarella, basil oil, and tomatoes. On that same bread. Again, outside in the sunshine. The panini only come as one size (large?) and probably could be shared between two people as an average lunch. Don’t even bother asking me to share mine, though. Those creamy, chewy, salty layers would belong to no one but me.
Cold weather might put a damper on this sandwich addiction—because it means eating in that zoo—but at least I have now turned my Eataly frown upside down.