My friend Susan and I happily dropped a few dollars into Mario Batali’s pockets this weekend on our trip to New York City.

Yesterday I told you about dinner at The Spotted Pig. We also spent several satisfied hours at Eataly (how could you not be satisfied eating the tasty pasta pictured here?), the Italian eating emporium that Batali, founder Oscar Farinetti, cook and author Lidia Bastianich, Lidia’s son Joe, and Slow Food have partnered to create. 

This was my second visit to Eataly. My first visit was last fall with my 8-year-old son. We stayed for a half hour and grabbed a little lunch — delicious slices of tomato bread. Eataly was crowded and overwhelming, so I didn’t want to keep my son there too long, but I knew I’d be back.

It’s hard to describe Eataly. It’s huge — 50,000 square feet. There are five different sit-down restaurants in the space (with a sixth, a rooftop beer garden, which is scheduled to open in the spring). There are six take-away prepared food counters where you can get everything from sandwiches to fresh baked bread to organic whole milk gelato (that’s Susan’s refreshing pear gelato pictured at right). There is also a grocery store, a cookbook store and a kitchen store inside. There’s a vegetable butcher, too. And a cooking school. And…

My first piece of advice if you’re going to really check out all of Eataly is to get there when it opens. You’ll be able to get a good look around and get your bearings before the crowds arrive. If you’re planning on having a meal, eat sooner rather than later. The wait for a table can get long.

We chose to have lunch at La Pizza & Pasta restaurant. I had Penne Napoli — penne pasta with a light tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella and fresh basil. Simple and delicious — it tasted like summer. I was completely satisfied with my meal until I had a taste of Susan’s lunch. She chose the special of the day, spinach ravioli in a lemon butter sauce with crushed pistachio on top (pictured, left). It was outrageously good. One of the best things I’ve ever eaten good. Susan agreed. We’re going to try to figure out how to recreate this dish since we were told the recipe would not be shared.

Sustainability is a major theme at Eataly. While many of the foods in the market have been imported from Italy, it seems as if many of the fresh foods available are sourced locally or regionally. Fruits and vegetables come from nearby when in season. The meats used in at the Manzo restaurant, the most formal of all the dining spaces at Eataly, are sourced from the United States even if they are prepared in an Italian manner.

Local cheeses, milk, eggs and other fresh foods are available throughout the space. The bookstore is full of books about eating and cooking locally and sustainably. One of the classes offered is Farm to Chef that uses prime local ingredients. The sustainable touches are everywhere you turn at Eataly.

Have you had the opportunity to visit Eataly yet? Did you like it?

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