After opening its doors last year, Eataly has become Manhattan’s newest attraction for Italian food fanatics. However, the gleaming marketplace hasn’t left New York’s historic Little Italy district with empty tables. Both Italian pasta havens are known for serving up authentic Italian food, but the different dining experiences keeps the dough rolling for everyone.
The cooks behind the concept of Eataly have created a 50,000 square foot Italian superstore with five restaurants, an assortment of cafes, a marketplace and a wine store. Eataly, backed by notable Italian-American chef, Mario Batali; has been a huge success; doubling all their original revenue projections.
Though Eataly has established itself as the contemporary Italian experience in New York, Little Italy store owners insist Eataly cant match the history and atmosphere of their lower Manhattan street location.
Lou DiPalo, whose family owns Little Italy’s famous DiPalo’s Fine Foods, says that people come for the food, but return for the quaint charm of the Italian-American culture.
“Little Italy is a place to actually feel the history and the traditions and the contributions that Italians have made to this country.”
Eataly’s sprawling location is often bustling with people; resembling what some customers described as a theme park. However, Joe Bastianich, managing partner of Eataly, says that the appeal is in the gathering of people.
“New Yorkers can come together in a common space, whether for an espresso or a gelato. To buy some fish. To buy some produce. To have a gourmet meal, in one common place.”
DiPalo’s family has been in New York since 1910, and they’re not the only family who has been there since the beginning. Chris Nirschel, a chef in Caffé Napoli in Little Italy, focuses on the generations of families that their neighborhood has hosted.
“The big difference is that I came here as a kid. My dad came here as a kid. You know, my kids will come here,” Nirschel said.
Little Italy also offers variety to its customers; with every restaurant as unique as the people who own it.
“Every restaurant, every business that’s here has its own character. It takes on the character of the families that own it,” Nirschel added.
The competing markets both boast authentic Italian fare, but each offers a distinct dining experience. However, Eataly and Little Italy proprietors share the sentiment that New York is big enough for both of them.
“I’d love to see Mario come down and try our sauce. Let’s go baby!” Nirschel said.
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