Buttermilk ™ Goes To Eataly LA
Buttermilk ™ Goes To Eataly LA
BY : JASON STEWART
When you walk in from the escalator you’ll see baristas wearing dad caps embroidered with the phrase “Tutto Benne” or “Everything Good” in Italian. I feel kinda bad for the Beverly Hills bakery with the same name down the street, but “everything good” evokes a calming rasta vibe that you’ll need before doing a lap in Eataly, especially on Black Friday weekend. Also of note, famous chef Mario Batali is a shareholder in Eataly, and you can, or should I say could have seen his branded products all over the store, he seems to be having a bad week though, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they pulled all the orange spatulas.
Shoehorned in the mall known for serving whatever agents eat for lunch, and ironically next to an Equinox gym, sits Eataly, the giant and expertly curated Italian market for everything food related. Suddenly I found myself excited be in “Century City,” a city where nobody should be excited to visit. Beverly Hills’ “Rodeo Drive” a stone’s throw away, but if Beverly Hills is a Mac, then Century City is definitely a PC.
Extravagant chrome espresso machines that look like Russian castles stand in place of the sleek and modern third wave coffee matte finish units. No fixed gear silkscreen bags of beans for sale, just the classic Italian Lavazza stuff that seems to have got most of the world for the last decade. After living in a foodie bubble for the last few years, it felt refreshingly comforting to see something just regular, done well. Like when you go your childhood mall that kinda sucked.
Their bakery section up next, with a museum-like viewing window. Dinosaur sized mixers turning focaccia dough, a thin layer of flour over every surface, the flour looks imported. If you’re lucky, you might catch a lady weighing out eggs because that’s what bakers do, grab a stale crust sample from her. The housemade potato chips, encased in a lucite aquarium struck me as the first of many things in Eataly that are surprisingly priced well. That unexpected price tag carries over to their produce section, a smart collection of basics and seasonal exotic fruits and veggies. It’s not all about a rare and strangely beautiful radish here, I’d say the produce is somewhere between a Whole Foods and a farmer’s market, both in terms of product, and price (in a good way.)
A concise collection of high dollar fungi mixed with the reggie, at the very least it’s nice to know there’s a place with chanterelles, somehow always. The fresh mozzarella station has a cold case lined with water-and-ball filled deli cups, backlit like a jellyfish tank in a tasteful Miami ultra lounge. The cheese is also hand pulled before your eyes, in another museum window, this time by a tatted up Italian hunk. It just seemed right. Oh, and the still-warm mozz balls ring up for under 4 bucks.
I might have a new favorite fish market here at Eataly, everything looked beautiful and ultra fresh. Whole Branzino, gutted and stuffed with bright lemon slices and fresh herbs, ready to be driven home straight to the oven, salt baked perhaps. Branzino is the undisputed king of “instagram-thot” fish dishes. Fresh Uni trays, cockles, and razor clams this beautiful don’t pop up too much in LA, but I guess Batali found a plug. I wonder how many pounds of smelt they’re throwing away every night… Meats get the same treatment, a perfect mix of classics like dry aged rib eye from Diamond Creek Ranch, to Angus beef shins at $10.80 per pound, we could also be onto the new oxtail. Marrow bones pre-cut for roasting are cheap enough to take home for a not-so-special occasion. The wine section is all Italian, at least from what I saw, with helpful info-graphics posted to guide rookies like myself. Tastings probably happen, but drinking at the dumbest mall in LA doesn’t seem as fun as barreling out on 5th ave after a three glass buzz in Manhattan. But I won’t knock it till I try it. All the craft beer mainstays are tucked in the corner by the bathrooms, from Moretti to Dogfish, and every other flip-flop style pale ale up and down the coast.
The obviously seafood heavy restaurant “Il Pesce Cucina” from Michael Cimarusti of Providence looks legit, with an outdoor balcony wrapping around, not unlike the Soho House up the street. A Napoletana Pizzeria with two massive gold-tiled ovens that I could only assume cost more money to ship over from Italy than the plane they flew in on is nestled between the other restaurants. Giant cambros of rainbow colored cherry tomatoes, still in season 2 weeks from Christmas, make you realize why even chefs like David Chang are finally giving in to Los Angeles. The fresh pasta section has more giant machines, these rolling out dough to be hand formed tortellini perhaps, or a dozen other fresh types. Exciting ravioli fillings like “beef cheek” remind you that those off cuts aren’t going to waste in the butcher section. Dried out in a good way Cavatelli sit in wicker baskets, begging to have their crags filled. It’s where you’ll find the white truffles too, if you were wondering.
No Pacifico in the beer cooler, but for some reason a small section of the cheese area has a couple Oaxacan cheeses and Cotijas in there, maybe a distributor favor. It’s not that bizarre of a sighting normally, but it would be the first and last non-Italian thing I’d see that day, not counting the parking lot. Their Italian offerings are priced well and abundantly- you can grab a four dollar nub of parmesan to microplane over pastas at home, and at $28 a pound for Reggiano (it’s nice to just get a lil’ bit.) The dried pasta and canned tomato section might be my favorite though, a library of pastas and sauces I’ve never seen before. Five aisles of dry pasta alone! Maybe it’s a good thing I live across town.
Oddly, Eataly somehow has the best selection of milks, both alternative and dairy, I’ve ever seen. From stoner-labeled unpasteurized heavy creams driven down from upstate, to seasonal Strauss eggnog in thick glass bottles, eight dollar almond milk from brands even I’ve never seen IRL. I’m starting to feel like I’m back in the womb, that body high I get from going to the overpriced fancy market I can’t afford, and just browsing around. You get the feeling that for those 45 minutes, the rest of the world doesn’t matter and you can just admire nice stuff. Waiting for a pizza slice could give Howlin Ray’s a run for its money, the line long like their pizzas, airy and risen, shaped like snow shoes and sliced onto those wood planks you’d put a cheese platter on, or spank a frat brother with. The self checkout area offers some much needed alone time after all that, buy some pasta, a weird can of imported tomatoes, and a little hunk of parma. For now, the food lines are really long, especially on the weekend, no wonder they tell you to grab a glass of wine before you do anything here.
10250 Santa Monica Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90067