One of my New Year's resolution for 2017 was to visit Eataly at the Prudential Center in Boston. I have been to the New York City location many times (here is the post from my first visit in 2011) and I was excited to see how the Beantown space would compare.
I rounded up three of my best friends from college to join me on this eating adventure. We agreed to meet at 5pm on a Saturday night, leaving plenty of time to explore before we got hungry for dinner.
Eataly is located on the Boylston Street side of the Prudential Center. There are two entrances - one inside the mall (just beyond Under Armour) and one from the street (look for the cannoli sign).
We entered through the mall and this sign was planted a few steps inside. It summed up my feelings perfectly!
After a few minutes of deliberation, we decided the best plan was to walk the entire space and get a lay of the land. Then we could make a game plan for how we wanted to attack each section.
The first two areas are for dessert - pastries, candy and gelato. Clearly, this is my kind of place! Next there is a beautiful bread section, followed by cheese.
Check out those wheels of parmesan! It reminded me of the first episode of Chef's Table featuring Massimo Bottura of Modena, Italy.
Next to the cheese is the salumi, complete with meat hanging from the ceiling. As I was snapping this photo, a girl turned to her mother and asked, "Do you think those are real?!"
Just beyond that is the fresh pasta. Oh man, I wanted to buy everything!
Eataly also has its own wine shop.
Important note: if you buy a bottle of wine at the shop, you are not allowed to uncork it at Eataly. If you want to drink wine during your visit, you have to purchase a bottle or a glass from one of the restaurants.
Speaking of restaurants, we strolled by the staircase that leads to Eataly's newest addition, Terra.
I was told by several friends that though the space is beautiful (it feels like you're inside a terrarium) and it's a fun place to get a cocktail, the food is underwhelming and the service is spotty. So, we decided to skip it.
The final area at the end of the path is a space with cafeteria-like seating. As you walk toward it, there is a book nook with shelves and shelves of gorgeous cookbooks. While I was weaving through I noticed the most Boston of thing of all time. Among the esteemed cookbook authors, right in the center of the display, was none other than Tom Brady.
Only in Boston could Brady's cookbook share a shelf with these famous chefs!
At this point we had walked the entire perimeter of the space and we had a sense for what we wanted to do. We had already seen a line forming at La Pizza & La Pasta, which is where we wanted to sit for dinner. So we split up - I went to put our name in for a table, two girls went to pick out cheese and a bottle of wine and one held down a table for four in the cafeteria.
We reconvened in the cafeteria area to enjoy wine, cheese and crackers. The girls picked out two kinds of cheese, one soft and one hard. The cheesemonger helped narrow it down to a camembert from Hudson Valley and a pecorino called San Pietro. We also grabbed a box of Jan's Crisps (the cranberry pistachio flavor), which are beyond addicting.
After learning you couldn't uncork wine purchased in the wine shop, the girls darted into La Pizza & La Pasta to purchase a bottle from the bartender. An odd system, if you ask me.
We sat nibbling on cheese, sipping our wine and catching up. After about 55 minutes we got a text that our dinner table was ready. We had to wait a few more minutes at the hostess stand, before being led to a table for four in the front corner.
None of us could get over how cool the wine bottle fixtures were.
Though we had bellies full of wine and cheese, that didn't stop us from drooling over the mozzarella section of the menu!
We decided to start with mozzarella and a side of basil pesto.
The cheese was so fresh and each piece was drizzled with olive oil. The pesto was super yummy and the perfect mix of basil, pine nuts and parmesan cheese.
We asked our waiter if it would be possible to have some bread. He seemed annoyed by the request and brought back three pieces, even though we were clearly four people.
For the main course we decided to order a few things and share. The first was the tartufella pizza, which is normally mozzarella cheese, black truffle cream, sweet Italian sausage and parmesan. We asked if it was possible to have the sausage on just half and our waiter said, "No, we can't do that." The girls were so accommodating and replied, "Then we'll have it without sausage."
The tartufella was a classic white pizza, but I found myself wishing for red sauce. It just didn't taste hearty enough.
Next we tried the verduretta pizza - mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, eggplant, zucchini, roasted bell peppers and extra virgin olive oil on the top.
I absolutely loved this pizza. It was loaded with veggies, but not so many that the crust couldn't handle it. I asked for crushed red pepper, which made it even tastier.
As the pizza plates were being cleared, I asked the girls what they thought. One piped up, "Overall, I wish the crust was a little crispier on the bottom. These were both just a bit too doughy for me."
We also ordered the cacio e pepe, which I tasted for the first time in my life at Eataly in New York. I've been addicted to it ever since. It's four simple ingredients - spaghetti, parmesan, pecorino and black pepper.
I had talked it up so much I was worried the girls wouldn't love it, but they all agreed it was truly special. For me, their rendition is still the best anywhere. I am not going to lie, once the last noodle was gone, I wanted to lick the bowl.
With our carb fest complete, we paid the bill and headed back out in search of gelato. The gelato counter is near the entrance (inside the mall) and it's clear that people pop in just to get ice cream and head right back out. I was tempted by so many of the flavors, but ultimately decided on the salted caramel and the dark chocolate.
The salted caramel was heavenly! I can't recommend it enough. I love that the paper cups read, "It isn't going to lick itself!"
The girls also tried the pistachio, the coconut and the sweet cream. Everyone was very satisfied with their selection.
Now, at this point, you would think we'd be ready to tap out. We'd already indulged in wine, cheese, pizza, pasta and gelato. But, no. As you take the escalator down to the street, you have to walk by the cannoli bar. We couldn't leave without making our own cannoli!
My favorite sign in all of Eataly is this one, "You cannoli live once." Ha!
I was excited to learn that the Eataly cannoli bar encourages you to design your own confection. You choose the type of shell, the flavor of filling and any toppings / garnishes.
I went with the chocolate dipped shell and the classic ricotta filling. When the server asked, "Would you like powdered sugar on top?" I said, "But of course!"
We were all getting uncomfortably full so we decided to take our cannoli to go and eat them once we got home.
Overall, our trip to Eataly was a learning experience. Figuring out where everything is, how to order, how to pay and which areas are worth spending in and which you can skip. After spending nearly four hours there, here are my pro tips:
- Think of Eataly as not just a sit down restaurant, but I place where you can pop in for a quick errand - wine and cheese to bring to a dinner party or a beautiful dessert to wow a host or hostess.
- The Eataly gelato is delicious and worth a trip of it's own. Since this first visit, I've already been back to try more flavors!
- The best restaurant for the authentic Eataly experience is definitely La Pizza & La Pasta. Great choices for even the pickiest eaters and of course, the famous cacio e pepe.
- You can easily take the T to Eataly; it's close to four stops - Copley, Hynes Convention Center, Prudential Center and Symphony. If you are coming by car, park under the Prudential Center and then have Eataly validate your parking ticket. As long as you spend at least $10 dollars, they will stamp you and you'll save majorly!
So tell me, have you been to Eataly in Boston? What food or dish was your favorite?