So in case you haven’t picked up on it already, I am a serious Italophile. God’s greatest gift to me (besides my family, fiancé and amazing friends) is having me be born an Italian-American. I am not one of these hardcore, wannabe muscle head Italian Americans, though. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Italian, a Master’s degree in Teaching Italian, am a high school public school teacher of Italian, and a frequently traveler to Italy. I’m not one of those people that requests a cappuccino after dinner.
But anyway – Italian, Italian American, or not – let’s face it – you have to have a pretty messed up palate (or none at all) to not crave, live, and die for Italian food.
My Italian American family barely ever took me to restaurants when I was younger. Why go out to eat when your grandmother can cook you a huge, delicious feast that could last for hours and hours? Restaurant meals would diminish their pride.
Shortly after my grandmother died in 2009, I began my graduate degree at NYU. That is when my soul (food) searching began. I began to search for food that I could no longer have, food that tasted like my grandmother’s.
I remember when Eataly opened in 2010. I just started my graduate degree at NYU. Eataly is ginormous – they have everything that you could ever imagine all in one huge space (Italian butcher, pastry stand, sandwich stand, caffè, fresh pasta, una piazza (where you stand an have antipasti), a vegetable restaurant, a pizza and pasta restaurant, and even a birreria on the rooftop – the list can go on and on. They also have classes at La Scuola di Eataly (there are now two scuole). Some classes can be pricey, but there are some reasonable ones as well. I have taken the Baci Perugina class along with a wine tasting class with Joe Bastianich himself (and Oscar Farinetti, the head honcho of all Eatalys in the WORLD, even attended). I have even taken my students to Eataly two years in a row, where they were given the amazing opportunity to take a cooking class, tour of Eataly, and have an Eatalian scavenger hunt.
I am just going to write about the basics today, though. No matter how picky you are with food, pizza and pasta seem to please everyone.
If you want pizza or pasta at Eataly (or both, if you are like my fiancé and I), you will find yourself at La Pizza & La Pasta. Eataly’s pizza is good and very consistent. You can sit at a table (the setting is like that of a food court – but it’s at Eataly, so it’s a bit more than that), or where I like to sit – at the pizza bar. You go there for the Eatalian experience after all, right?
Eataly takes pride in their high quality ingredients. Prices can be a bit steep, but everybody deserves to treat themselves. My favorite Eatalian pizza is the Verace. The difference between the Verace and the Margherita is the cheese – the Verace uses Mozzarella di Bufala. There is no competition when it comes to Mozzarella di Bufala. Any other cheese on a pizza will just lose.
The pastas are also great. If you want something meaty, you can get a pasta with a delicious ragù, like braised short rib. My favorite is the Cacio e Pepe. Cacio e Pepe, or “cheese and pepper,” is Rome’s REAL version of macaroni and cheese. But whether I am at Eataly or not, if Cacio e Pepe is on the menu, I always order it. I didn’t study or live in Rome, but the one thing that I must have when in Rome is Cacio e Pepe, over and over again. It’s like OCD. I can’t get enough of it. I’m afraid to never have it again. Served with dry pasta (not fresh), with cheese and pepper, and a bit of the starchy water that you cook the pasta in. You would never believe the flavors that are possible with just these ingredients. If you attempt to go all out and make it at home, make sure that you use dry pasta. The dry pasta absorbs the sauce that the starchy water, cheese, and pepper create. You should try this at home, kids.
While Eataly’s Cacio e Pepe is good, it’s not go to all ends of the Earth good. If you have the time, energy, and money to go to all ends of the Earth to get the best Cacio e Pepe of your life, head to Roma Sparita in Rome. You will eat the most gooey, decadent Cacio e Pepe of your life, in a crispy pecorino romano cheese bowl. You will morire, or die, in the best way possible.
I like to keep it simple. Usually I get Cacio e Pepe or Pasta al Pomodoro. At any restaurant. Because it all comes back to grandma.
If you want good and consistent food with the best quality of ingredients you can find, head to Eataly NYC.
Eataly NYC, 200 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10010
Roma Sparita, Piazza di Santa Cecilia, 24 – Trastevere (00153 – Roma)