Rossopomodoro at Eataly
200 Fifth Avenue, New York NY 10010 (23rd/24th; map)
Getting there: N/R train to 23rd Street is closest station
Pizza style: Neapolitan-style pizza
Oven type: Two wood-fired ovens
The skinny: Solid if not raving-great (at least not yet) Neapolitan pizza from the pizzeria within the new, much-hyped Italian megasupergrocery store Eataly
Price: Most pies range from $13 to $18, with a $9 marinara pizza and a $20 seafood smörgåsbord version serving as outliers
You've heard of Eataly, right? No? Let me help you with that rock you've been living under. It's the Italian food supermarket that opened in NYC yesterday to unbelievable hype. It's actually a U.S. spin on the original Eataly superstore in Turin, Italy. That store's founder, Oscar Farinetti, partnered with Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich, and Lidia Matticchio Bastianch to open the New York branch. See why there's hype here? Tons of other big names are associated with this thing, too, including L.A.-based wünderbaker Nancy Silverton (La Brea Bakery, Mozza), NYC seafood champ Dave Pasternack (Esca), and Mario's dad, Armandino Batali, who's well-known in his own right for his cured meats at Seattle's Salumi.
The store, located in the lobby of the Toy Building on Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street, is equal parts supermarket, food court, and food-education center (it has a bookstore, and cooking classes are also available). I would say that Eataly is like the Italian aisle at your grocery store on steroids, but that would be A) a cliché and B) inaccurate. No, it's like one those late '70s/early '80s after-school specials where some longhair high on angel dust jumps out of a second story window, breaks both his legs but still manages to assault three cops before being stopped. It is the Italian aisle on PCP.
Anyway, with the madness on Slice centering on pizza, I went for the crusty, saucy, cheesy stuff this afternoon for lunch.
First impressions of the pizza —Neapolitan-style, of course — are good. The pizzeria inside Eataly is called Rossopomodoro and is a branch of an Italian chain that has locations all over the motherland and in London, Buenos Aires, Reykjavik, Tokyo, and Naples, Florida. As has been noted elsewhere, the two pizzamakers there arrived in the U.S. from Naples early last week.
There are 16 different pizzas on the menu, the cheapest a $9 marinara (though here it's called the "Napoli TSG") and the priciest $20 frutti di mare special pizza (mussels, clams, calamari, shrimp, garlic, cherry tomatoes, ligurian olive oil). The rest range from $13 to $18, and the Margherita (here called the "San Marzano") is a reasonable $13.
I ordered the San Marzano (Margherita) and snapped some pics of the ovens while I waited.
Eataly's focus being on imported Italian products, it's no surprise they're using Caputo flour and canned tomatoes from Italy.
As I snapped pictures of the oven, I noticed the pizza runner slicing pies with a pizza cutter, the fior di latte catching on the wheel and pulling away in long, gooey strings. I could not wait to get my hands on that cheese.
And lemme tell you, it was delicious. Creamy, buttery, slightly salty. I could have eaten just that cheese alone, and it may have been the best part of this pizza. The sauce itself was fresh-tasting with only the flavor of tomatoes and a little bit of salt — nothing off-putting there but nothing amazing, either. The crust was slightly crisp, tender, and only moderately chewy. It did have a slightly too-floury flavor, though.
On the whole, however, I failed to notice the floury flavor when sauce and cheese were in play. Individual bites of the pizza ranged from merely good to almost great, depending on whether I hit a pocket of Parmigianno-Reggiano. A little more of that aged cheese on this pizza would kick it up a notch on the Sliceometer.
Based on just the one pie here at lunch, I'd say this isn't life-changing pizza, but it's worth your while if you're shopping for groceries and want a quick fix. That is to say, there's nothing to complain about and, at least so far, nothing to go stark raving mad about either.
What to Expect for Now
The foodie masses and curious New Yorkers are mobbing the place. But don't let that stop you. Especially if you're going solo. Despite the line (about 20 people deep) at the front door around 12:55 p.m., I got in pretty quickly (after about 5 minutes, if that). I expect that line will ebb once the looky-loos have had their fill and move on.
The pizzeria corner of the store is not easy to find but not difficult to locate either. There's ample signage, including one of those distance marker-type signs you've seen in old cartoons. Just walk through the front doors and keep going straight toward the back of the food hall. You'll see a sign for "Pizza and Pasta Seating."
Despite a sort of glorified food court feel, it's not take-away. You sit at a table (or the bar) for wait-staff service.
When I visited, there was a short line (about 10 people deep) waiting to put their names in. Parties of two or more were quoted a 30-minute waiting time for a table. Because I was alone, I got one of the empty seats at the bar. Entrance-to-seat time was maybe 11 minutes for me. If that.
Expect to order one pizza per person, as is pretty much customary with Neapolitan pizza. There's "antipizza," salads, etc.