Last Friday was one of those picture-perfect September days in the city. The skies were clear, the air was crisp, and the foot traffic on 5th Avenue was a beautiful parade of the “glittering crowds…in canyons of steel” that Vernon Duke surely had in mind when he wrote “Autumn in New York.”
As I left my late-morning voice lesson, I realized that nothing on my to-do list was terribly pressing, and so I could take my time getting back to Brooklyn. I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to duck into Eataly for a quick lunch and look-around, and was reminded of something that Italians seem to know instinctively: stealing an hour for a delicious meal and a bit of unapologetic leisure is deeply restorative and good for the soul.
Mario Batali’s sprawling, airy monument to all of Italy’s culinary delights can be a little overwhelming, it’s true. Eataly houses walls of cookbooks and sleek, Italian-designed cookware, bottles of extra virgin olive oil in every imaginable shade of green-gold, a butcher, a fishmonger, a cheese shop, no fewer than seven restaurants plus a Nutella bar (!) and a room dedicated solely to gelato and espresso, so it can be hard to know where to start.
I strolled slowly, smiling at the innumerable shapes and sizes of pasta that lined Eataly’s shelves. I marveled, too, at the vast array of honeys from all over Italy (chestnut, acacia, linden, wildflower) and pondered having a lunch of gelato (pistacchio, nocciola, and cioccolato, to be exact) before taking a seat at the bar in Le Verdure, Eataly’s vegetarian restaurant. I ordered the bruschetta del giorno: toasted country bread topped with goat cheese, fresh figs, and a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar. Wanting something sophisticated but non-alcoholic to drink, I also ordered a blood orange San Pellegrino soda.
I ate slowly, reading a book and people-watching. At the end of my lunch, I felt that a metaphorical as well as literal hunger had been satisfied. It’s easy, in our always-frenetic American lives, to pooh-pooh our need (yes, need) for la dolce far niente (the sweetness of doing nothing). But the truth is, an hour spent savoring a well-prepared meal and enjoying a favorite corner of the city can reinvigorate one’s spirit and even boost productivity. I left Eataly with a spring in my step and a smile on my face, newly resolved to find more moments of indulgence and relaxation amidst the hustle and bustle of everyday life.