I thought I’d died and gone to heaven last month in New York. I didn’t, and it wasn’t. It was Eataly, the new Italian food Mecca on Fifth Avenue between 23rd and 24th streets. Top chef Mario Batali’s latest venture with Master Chef partner Joe Bastianich, his mother Lydia Mattichio Basianich, and Eataly Torino founder, Oscar Farinetti.

Jewels thinking she found heaven

After a morning roaming around the Matisse and the Modern Kitchen exhibitions at MoMA with my cousin Nancy, we b-lined it for Eataly to get a jump start on the lunchtime crowds. I can only describe the experience as a personal chef‘s version of “a kid let loose in a candy store,” a 50,000 square foot emporium of Italian delicacies.
Torturous temptation everywhere you turn

Tempted by the insanely beautiful desserts, I did my best to keep blinders on as I moved swiftly past the gelato bar at the entrance towards my second morning coffee fix, while Nancy headed straight for the chocolate shots. Best intentions foiled, she talked me into a tiny taste, I have to admit the silky smooth rich dark chocolate gliding over my tongue was definitely a fast shot to euphoria. Nancy’s face says it all!
Chocoholic Cousin (it runs in the family) Nancy Laner Nelson

Mmmmmmmmmmm!

Euphoric chocolate
Deciding which of the various restaurants to eat in was torturous. I wanted to sit in one place and try everything, but the Neapolitan pizza place is segregated from the Italian steakhouse, panini bar, and vegetable restaurant. The crowds were growing too thick to move back and forth between them. Then I spotted the fabulously fresh seafood, and bullied Nancy into making a reservation at the fish restaurant (not her first choice), while I shopped for an exquisite, yet easy dinner to take to my BFF’s apartment that evening.
Making buffalo mozzarella
The crux of good Italian food is based on the freshest of ingredients – buffalo mozzarella doesn’t get any fresher than this. I stood dumbfounded as I watched the guy make the cheese in front of me!
Jewels at the prosciutto counter

The crusty ciabatta with fig was still warm from the wood oven it had just been baked in, and the Tuscan melons so fragrant I nearly swooned, so I ordered a half pound of prosciutto di San Danielle to go with it.

Selection of fresh pasta

Next I headed for some homemade tagliatelle, and after much deliberation, I opted for Mario Batali’s marinara sauce. What? It was my day off! It was every bit as good, if not better, than something I would whip up from scratch. Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano from the cheese section would finish the simple, yet delicious pasta off nicely. Toss together a lovely green salad, and dinner would be ready in a flash.
Il Pesce

I’d worked up quite an appetite by the time our table was ready, crunching through a few too many grissini as we waited for our fritto misto, and perfectly roasted Brussels sprouts to arrive. I distracted myself with taking pictures of the food the diners to my right had just been served. They probably thought I was perfectly certifiable, but I did ask politely before I snapped. Ever-so-pleasantly satisfied (thanks again for lunch cuz) I still had just enough room left for a scoop of pear gelato on the way out. It may not have been heaven, but it sure tasted like it.
Fritto Misto
Try Mario Batali’s fritto misto recipe on Food Network, or adapt my recipe for fried calamari to include shrimp and scallops. Fry in olive oil instead of vegetable oil to keep it more heart healthy. Garnish with chopped rosemary, and serve with lemon wedges.
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  • October 26, 2010
    2:06 pm

    Really sumptuous and temptations and heavenly.

  • October 26, 2010
    2:57 pm

    Just saw the pics of the food. OMG amazing place! I am another chocoholic, those shots must be divine! And the calamari looks delicious too! Yum!Isabel Ortiz Bernad

  • October 26, 2010
    7:22 pm

    It all looks so wonderful! It must have been agonizing making a decision. I love ciabatta and have never had it with figs. I can only imagine how the foccacia looked/tasted. Of all the pics, I have to say the pasta would be my downfall and then the cheese counter. Good thing I won't get there in this life time because I'd drive myself crazy trying to make a decision. Great pics of all the goodies.

  • October 26, 2010
    7:27 pm

    OMG, that looks like the happiest place on Earth! Forget Disneyland… *gulp!Kim Phillips Cuccia

  • October 27, 2010
    4:24 am

    Just looking at the pics and I've started to drool YUM!JoAnne Gleason

  • October 27, 2010
    1:24 pm

    As an Italian girl raised on the cooking of two Italian grandmothers, I am always looking for food that measures up to my Gram's. I am definitely intrigued and I have to make this a destination the next time I am in NYC. This truly looks like heaven! -Chrissy

  • October 28, 2010
    1:43 pm

    I don't think you could have got me past the chocolate!! And all that pasta, fresh pasta looked wonderful.

  • October 28, 2010
    4:17 pm

    thanks for the post. Eataly definitely looks like it is worth a trip to NY to experience

  • October 28, 2010
    5:30 pm

    yummyCarly Guerrero

  • October 28, 2010
    5:30 pm

    You may be impressed by, how the guy can make the cheese infront of you, but you have NEVER complemented Daisy on how she can 'cut' the cheese infront of you ….Mikki Pallas

  • October 28, 2010
    5:31 pm

    NOTHING beats fresh mozza!!Justine Owls

  • October 28, 2010
    5:31 pm

    Speaking of I'm going to chunk a piece of mozz, I'm starving…..Carly Guerrero

  • October 28, 2010
    5:32 pm

    That is so beautiful. I love the combination of nature and science that goes into making a wonderful cheese. Beautiful, wholesome, natural ingredients combined with just the right chemicals and method make some of the greatest foods in the world.Heather Goodman Finley

  • October 28, 2010
    5:32 pm

    One of my best culinary memories was when I was at an Italian farmhouse and our hostess prepared (and served) buffalo mozzarella. I hope you enjoyed it.Terry Munson

  • October 28, 2010
    5:37 pm

    Oh Carly – I'm not talking about the hard plasticy mozzarella – Buffalo mozzarella is soft and so much more wonderful eaten as it is (the other is more for melting on top of pizzas) with sliced tomato, fresh basil, a drizzle of balsamic, good extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Heaven. Most supermarkets carry it now in the deli section. It comes in tubs floating around in it's whey.

  • October 28, 2010
    6:07 pm

    Sadly, when I went it was a MADHOUSE and, couple that with a door "wench" that only exacerbated a horrible situation and staff that were beyond bothered and screwed up orders, I didn't enjoy my time at Eatly. However, after reading your post, I think I'll give it another shot on a return trip 🙂

  • October 28, 2010
    9:19 pm

    Oh how I wish I could have been there.Italian is certainly one of my favourite foods. Eately certainly looks like an amazing place. Hopefully I may be able to experience it in the future.Aussie Mum

  • October 28, 2010
    10:02 pm

    Oh, I know, I made a capri salad and have left over mozz, but it's not the stuff thats plastic cover wrapped at the grocery store.I wish it was made fresh thoughCarly Guerrero

  • October 28, 2010
    10:03 pm

    I use virgin olive oil and basil and the "tommytoes" are cute little round balls that are soooo goodCarly Guerrero

  • October 28, 2010
    10:04 pm

    I've never ever had it THAT fresh before. It was fun to watch, and more so to eat.