Ever since I heard about Eataly, I have been totally curious to see what the place would be like. It sounded like it was built upon the Euro concept of each store selling one thing, whether that be cheeses, meats, pastas, breads, etc. This concept was crossed with a Whole Foods, adapted to Manhattan real estate, and the result is a Mario Batali-backed venture which includes a myriad of stores, restaurants and a market housed inside a building located next to Madison Square Park.
I was quite fascinated by the set up inside. With foods of all sort all around you from the moment you walk in, it reminded me a little bit of the basements inside the Japanese department stores. The Japanese basements focused on all sorts of prepared foods, but Eataly was equal parts restaurant and grocery store.
I think there are about a dozen or so eateries of all kinds with each place focusing on just seafood or pasta or pizzas or sandwiches. I was salivating as I walked through and perused all the menus and different offerings. I wanted to try La Piazza where you could order a platter of cheeses, salamis, prosciutto and other cured meats. Unfortunately, it is first come, first serve, and the place was completely packed! I ended up eating at Manzo which is more of a sit-down restaurant, but I decided to just sit at the bar since I wanted to have a quick lunch.
As I sat and waited for my food, I absorbed the scene around me. There was a steady flow of people moving through Eataly. People were shopping, strolling, eating and maneuvering around each other. Even though it was the middle of the afternoon, every seat at the bar was full.
I was in the mood for pasta, but I wasn’t sure which one to order. My waiter saw my indecision and suggested the Agnolotti. It was like a ravioli filled with sausage and 4 cheeses and prepared with a brown butter sauce. I moved the slices of parmegiano cheese aside to avoid the cheese, but unfortunately, the filling was cheesier than I expected. It was a little overpowering actually, and although I liked the brown butter sauce, I thought they had gone a little heavy-handed with the salt. I really wanted to like it, because I thought the ravioli itself had a nice texture, but I think I just ordered the wrong dish for my taste buds.
On my way out, I decided to pick up a snack for later and got an order of Arancini to go. These deep-fried balls of risotto that are also filled with ragu of veal, peas, carrots, and white wine. This actually tasted really cheesy as well, and I could barely discern any of the ragu or vegetables. I’m sure it could have been better if the risotto to ragu ratio was a little bit more even.
Honestly, even though the food did not wow me like I hoped it would, I was still quite pleased with my visit. I totally love the concept of this place, and although it does get very crowded, I actually didn’t mind it too much. It is NYC, after all, and what would any place in Manhattan be if it wasn’t filled with people. However, if you’re crowd-averse, I would try avoiding this place on the weekends. It’s pure madness.
200 5th Ave.
New York, NY 10010
PAFO Ratings for Manzo:
Ambiance 3½ stars
Food 3 stars
Overall rating 3 stars