In the days before Sam's Club or Costco, when I was about four, an airplane hanger-sized grocery store called Super Saver landed in Lincoln, Nebraska and it landed with a colossal bang. A bang that involved 50 free samples on opening day. Full Pudding Pops! Want to try salad dressing? Have a whole salad! For a Midwestern kid, it was like rolling into Willy Wonka's factory. And they had talking cash registers and gigantic bins of candy. I haven't felt any similar excitement over a grocery store until last week when I popped into Eataly, Mario Batali & Co.'s new 50,000 square foot Italian food/lifestyle megastore across from the Flatiron Building. It's truly incredible. Miles of marble and Italian tile. You can eat gelato or sip cappuccino (pulled from a machine so impressive it looks like it could power a steam engine) or huge glasses of wine or loads of meats and cheese or pizza and pasta -- or you can buy it all to take home. There's a cookbook section and even a selection of cookware. You do have to battle the throngs, but somehow the madness is sort of well managed. It makes Whole Foods look like a corner bodega.
Porter and I went back on Saturday and picked up a few goodies (above) for a little Madison Square Park picnic. The rustic fig and soft olive oil breads were incredible with the salty prosciutto, ricotta from Salvatore Brooklyn and orange blossom honey from Mieli Thun.
They have loads of cheese - pre cut. We picked up an insane saffron and pepper sheep's cheese. And speaking of cheese, Seattle's Beecher's Cheese is moving in a few blocks south on Broadway!
Eataly, 200 Fifth Ave. at 23rd Street