The best thing about Eataly is most likely the fact that you don't have to wait until you get home to try out the goods. The store's motto is "We sell what we cook and we cook what we sell," so the very same products offered for sale are what are used in the restaurants too. I was really expecting some darn good food from the sit-down restaurants at Eataly; one of the main reasons being my profound respect for Mario Batali, Lidia Matticchio Bastianich, and what they cook. During my trip to the store, we decided to lunch at 'Il Pesce,' the restaurant devoted to serving only fish and shellfish.
Reeling from an overly-complex Italian meal the night before, the simplicity of the food we ate at 'Il Pesce' was much appreciated in my eyes. The meal began with Eataly's dense, tasty bread served with that classic Italian-American mixture of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. (The bread could have gone to better use if we avoided this faux-scarpetta and went directly for what was left from the appetizers or mains.)
Though a nice glass of white would have been the perfect match for the following meal, I (and my antibiotics) opted for the herby, subtly sweet Spuma Nera soda.
Being a huge fan of raw fish and meat, I opted for the crudo trio to begin. The day's three fishes were fluke, porgy and hamachi, served with black radish, toasted seeds and an aoili, respectively. Everything was spot-on, though I certainly wouldn't have minded a slightly more abundant portions of each. Another appetizer that we ordered were the baked clams, delicious, though missing out on the nice presentation of my crudo trio.
As for the main dishes, the entire table ordered either the grilled octopus salad or the grilled tuna. As I said before, not many choices but you can't mess with fresh, well-prepared seafood. The tuna, lightly salted only, was served with greens and beans. Though unevenly grilled, at the photo shows, it was still a prime and sizable chunk of fish. The octopus salad, on the other hand, was simply perfect. Also grilled and lightly seasoned, this was served over top of a simple salad with cannelloni beans dressed in olive oil and a touch of balsamic. I was practically imagining myself beach-side in Italy at a little seafood joint.
The side dishes, one in particular, cannot be forgotten either. There were bitter greens; I'm not sure exactly what type they were. We also ordered the richest, creamiest, most divine (and calorie-filled?) polenta ever created. No polenta I've ever made has even come minimally close to being like this. While I'd love to know the recipe, I would imagine that there copious amounts of butter, cream and cheese were utilized to get such a smooth, creamy texture. While I'd never pair it with seafood, the intrinsic goodness the polenta made everything all right.
Service was rather slow and the ambience was most definitely that of a food court, however the food made up for all of that. All of the dishes were rather costly, most of the dishes costing from 20-25 dollars each. (I'd imagine that's pretty standard NYC restaurant pricing for fresh fish, though.) It was nice to do some shopping, sit down and eat a very decent meal, and then rejoin the crowds without feeling laden down with a heavy lunch. Next time I'm in New York, I will without hesitation give the other Eataly restaurants a try.