By Jill Colvin
MIDTOWN — Mama Mia!
The new 50,000-square-foot Italian food emporium "Eataly" opened its doors in the Flatiron District Tuesday, giving foodies across the city reason to say "Molto Buono!"
With seven full-service restaurants, including a roof-top beer garden, as well as a cooking school, wine store and café, the space at Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street brings a fresh helping of Italy to the city.
"This is where the American dream and the Soul Italiani come together in harmony," celebrity restaurateur Mario Batali said at Tuesday's grand opening, where he cut a giant pasta ribbon in celebration along with fellow Eataly owners Joe Bastianich and Lidia Bastianich.
Eataly's Flatiron location is its first in North America (there are locations in Japan and Italy, as well). The emporium pegs itself as "the largest artisanal Italian food and wine marketplace in the world." The company says on its website it hopes the food emporium "will be the city’s ultimate destination for food lovers to shop and taste and savor."
"As we all know, New York has much in common with the great cities of Italy," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at the opening, surrounded by Archbishop Timothy Dolan and a host of Italian dignitaries, including the President of Luguria and the mayors of Alba, Barolo, Bra and Tur.
"Today that love affair is about to become even more intense with the opening of Eataly New York."
Nearly all of the produce is grown locally, with flour from upstate New York and fish from the Fulton Fish Market. Dry goods, including pastas and olive oils, are imported from Italy, said partner Adam Saper.
"The only thing that's frozen is our gelato," he joked.
Customers will also be able to peruse the aisles for handmade pastas, cured meats, cheeses, fruits and vegetable, breads, desserts, housewares and recipe books.
In addition to launching restaurants including Manzo, a fine-dining Italian steakhouse, and a Naples-style pizzeria, Eataly will be opening a roof-top beer garden in October. The beer will be brewed on the roof and served with a full menu that includes dishes such as pork shoulder braised in beer.
"The purpose of Eataly in general is to introduce people to food that they can then cook at home," said vegetable butcher Jennifer Rubell, 40, who lives in the Flatiron District.
The 300 person staff at Eataly even includes vegetable butchers who take care of prep work, such as soaking beans or peeling potatoes, to make home cooking easier.
For those looking to do more than shop, the La Scuola culinary education center will offer classes and events, some of which will be hosted by Eataly's celebrity founders.
So far, those who've seen the foodie mecca are impressed.
"I think it's fabulous, absolutely incredible," said Harriet Pasternack, the mother of David Pasternack, executive chef of New York’s Esca, who will oversee Eataly's seafood selection.
"It's every bit the equal of anything in Italy," agreed Corby Kummer, who has written about Eataly for The Atlantic, as he sampled the Italian breads.