When Eataly opened, it sealed the reputation of the neighborhood in and around Madison Square Park as one of New York's food-scene darlings. Shake Shack, Hill Country Chicken, Eleven Madison Park, A Voce, Grimaldi's, Zero Otto Nove and a rotation of food trucks like Red Hook Lobster, Cevap, Luke's, Calexico, Kelvin, Taim, and Eddie's make the Flatiron a pretty good place for lunch. But the atmosphere in Eataly, which chef Dave Pasternack has described as "Studio 54, but in a supermarket, at night," along with the crowds, the high prices, the New York elites who wear sunglasses inside at night while awaiting tables at Il Pesce or Le Verdure, the stroller-filled aisles — it was all a bit much.
"That place drives me nuts," I told everyone, "Mario Batali could offer to give me a guided tour and I'd say no. I'll never go again."
Then it happened. No, the crowds didn't thin, and Mario didn't offer a tour ("Hey, it's Molto Mario, I'm back from vacation. I want to give you a tour of Eataly! Bon AppeTITO!") I had to take a photo of something inside and while there I followed up on a recommendation of the prime rib sandwich served daily at Eataly's Rosticceria. And much as I wanted not to like it for the reasons above, I couldn't. It was a fine sandwich, a great one actually — moist, flavorful, juicy. And this created a problem.
See, the Rosticceria serves a daily rotation of sandwiches. And once you sample one high-quality sandwich, well, you can't ignore the fact that there could be several other outstanding sandwiches. And well, at that point, it's kind of just your duty, your obligation really, your responsibility, in fact, to sample them all... for the greater good, of course. Call it noblesse oblige du sandwich.
So I ate them all... for you. I braved crowds and suffered through six great sandwiches. I studiously watched their assembly, I reached out to discover the ingredients that go into them. In the process, I happened across an off-the-menu special and even learned to enjoy Eataly a little — not navigating crowds or eating a meal with a sea of people trudging by, but the Rosticceria's simple, one-component sandwiches, yes. Why? They taste good and there's a simplicity to them. There aren't many components or toppings. When I asked about this, a guy behind the counter answered, "That's Mario Batali for you. He likes to keep things simple."
They're all assembled in a very straightforward, simple fashion. They're sometimes made on small Italian loaves, sometimes on focaccia. The bread is sliced open, there's a drizzle of olive oil on the inside of the bread, the meat is layered inside, there's a scattering of large-flake salt, freshly-ground black pepper, another drizzle of oil, and that's it. A good central ingredient needs no embellishment. The meat is the focus, and in each of these sandwiches, it's delicious. And when the meat is supermoist, they go from good to great.
The menu is below, but for details and notes (including the top picks) you'll want to click through the slideshow. It should be noted, they made the right choice with the daily special. It's the best sandwich served at the Rosticceria — you'll want to be able to get it any day. And now, knowing everything I need to about these sandwiches, and having done this public service, I'll never, ever, ever go again. Unless, of course, it's for the public good.
MONDAY: Pork Arista
TUESDAY: Arista Sausage
WEDNESDAY: Brisket Bollito with Salsa Verde
FRIDAY: Braised Brisket Meatballs with Spicy Tomato Marmalata
SATURDAY: Pork Braciole
DAILY SPECIAL: Prime Rib