The Best Non-Kosher Food I've Never Had
I am proud to present what I am almost certain is the first review of non-kosher cuisine in any Yeshiva University publication, ever. Soft-shell crab! Hickory bacon! Veal parmigiana! These are but a few of the mouth-watering delicacies that have inspired this review.
It all started when I stepped off a Fifth Avenue sidewalk and into an Oz-esque indoor marketplace called Eataly, a neologism combining “eat” and “Italy.” I had heard of the place from friends, magazines and television, but as far as I was concerned it amounted to nothing more than a grand temptation. You see, I really like food. I like all aspects of food. Where it comes from, how it is made, and what it tastes like or is supposed to taste like. I spend more time than I care to admit watching the Food Network, and even more time than that eating. As an observant Jew, however, I acutely recognize that I cannot experience the full range of the world’s culinary delights. Limited by the strict dietary restrictions of a kosher palate, I have consciously eschewed the right to taste and experience many of the favorite dishes of my fellow food fanatics. Upon hearing about Eataly, a 50,000-square-foot marketplace dedicated to highlighting the best food and drink of Italy, I was understandably hesitant to put myself through the purgatory of being surrounded by wholly inaccessible food. I went anyway.
And it was awesome. I don’t mean awesome in the Blue Crush sense—I mean I was filled with awe. Fully booked restaurants, jovial wine-bars, spirited beer gardens, marbleized butcher counters, angelic pasta bowls, and creamy gelato cones are heavenly for any food lover, but to experience it all in one gargantuan room is…transcendent!
I took my time. I walked around studying the minutia of all Eataly has to offer, easily drowning out the hustle and bustle of daily life that emanated from all four corners. At one point, I was approached by someone employed by the store and was asked if I needed any assistance. I found myself responding, “I am simply enjoying myself.” And it was true; the experience of perusing the greatest thing to come out of Italy since pizza margarita was blissful. However, there is a catch, a big fat inconvenient torturous catch. I couldn’t eat any of the food, nor could I drink any of the wine. I am “kosher,” and it is treif.
So why write such a glowing review of a place that was effectively, nothing but a tease? How can I go on and on about food I have never tasted? I wrote a review last year about an exhibit at the New York Public Library. I wrote about how much one can learn from visiting the exhibit and how cross-cultural experiences can benefit people deeply. The same is true for Eataly. Being in the market is, itself, nothing short of a cultural experience. So, go! Do you adhere to the laws of kashrut? Halal? That’s wonderful. Pack up a lunch like you always do, stick it in your brown paper bag, and take a day trip to Eataly.
I really like food. All of my friends know it, and I’m therefore always the guy being asked for a restaurant recommendation, and even assistance with dish selections. Next time someone asks me where I think the best place to eat in Manhattan is, I will be able to say, in good faith, “I imagine, at Eataly.”
The Eataly NY marketplace is located at 200 Fifth Avenue, with entrances on Fifth Avenue and on 23rd Street.