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Last week, well before Sandy crashed onto the East Coast, I went to Manhattan for 1 day. The trip came up without warning and extending the stay was not an option. My challenge was deciding which food experiences I could pack into one day. Walking is a given in Manhattan, and the forecast was for a gorgeous autumn day. Perfect.

I thought about going to a great restaurant but eating by myself, trying not to eat way too fast and pretending not to feel uncomfortable didn’t seem fun. So I decided instead to focus on food and wander the streets of the Westside hitting every specialty food store.

I had four days to research before the flight.

The next day at Uwajimaya I ran into northwest caterer extraordinaire Linda Manca . When I mentioned the trip she asked if I had been to Eataly, Mario Batali’s Italian food market/restaurants/cooking school project. “I can’t believe you haven’t been there Heidi; you will just love it.”

Founded in Turin, Italy in 2007 by retailer Oscar Farinetti, Eataly is a concept designed to bring high quality Italian food products together in a marketplace, restaurant and educational environment. An extended part of the concept is virtual, and on-line sales take Eataly worldwide.

In 2010, Seattle native and celebrity chef Mario Batali together with his restaurant partner and also world-class chef Lydia Bastianich and her son Joe Bastianich joined Farinetti and opened Eataly NY.

Linda was absolutely right. From the street Eataly looks like another Manhattan specialty food store. One step inside and you become part of a noisy, bustling 50,000 sq. ft. Italian marketplace, surrounded by what appear to be independent food shops of varying sizes, restaurants, wine bars and people speaking Italian.

After the first thirty minutes my senses were so overcharged that I sat on one of the high bar stools to look, listen and absorb the incredible environment. I then spent the next two hours walking the aisles looking at product, talking with sellers, tasting samples, watching people and absorbing Italian food culture. Chè giornata!

If you love Italian food, check out the website.

A seating bar and restaurant in front of the cheese area.

Cheese, cheese and more incredible cheese.

Fresh artisan breads reflecting several regions of Italy

More Bread

Serious bout of bread envy

Different flavors, sizes and styles

Hand made gnocchi being cut for the pasta restaurant and take-out.

Each twisted Fusilli is 4″ long

Small flat Cottura-Minuti

This Brichetti is 1″ long

Croxetti, stamped and ready to cook

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