Where I’ve Been Getting Takeout of Late: Eataly
The Bay Area’s first Eataly opened last month. And it’s a doozy.
Spanning three floors and 45,000 square feet of the Westfield Valley Fair shopping center in San Jose, it is the eighth Eataly in the United States and the 41st in the world.
Having visited the ones in New York and Las Vegas, I had a sense of what this one would be like. But it definitely dwarfs those two in scope and size.
Even on a Tuesday at 4 p.m., the place was hopping with plenty of folks checking out the wares.
The third floor is also where you’ll find more than 1,000 gourmet specialty food products — everything from house-baked bread, handmade pastas and fresh-pulled mozzarella to shelves of olives oils, cheeses galore, tinned seafood, cured meats, and fresh produce.
The second floor is devoted entirely to Italian wines and spirits — more than 1,000 labels in all.
The first floor was where I was headed on my first trip here. My mission? Buy some of those big slabs of Roman-style pizza to take home for dinner.
You can purchase a whole pizza or a slice. Don’t worry if you find yourself gawking at the dozen varieties on display. You’ll be in good company because everyone who walks by practically stops in their tracks to stare.
This time around, I chose four slices: Fior di Zucca ($5.90), Tricolore ($8.90), Soppressata ($8.90), and the Pomodoro e Burrata ($12.90).
It’s a thick crust yet crackling crunchy on the bottom and edges with a nice charred, smoky taste. You notice the taste of olive oil and salt, the perfect enhancements to the nice developed flavor of the crust.
The Fior di Zucca is crowned with chunks of roasted green and yellow zucchini that are al dente and sweetly grassy tasting. There’s a zucchini blossom or two, as well, plus a pinch of thyme. Just be warned that some of the zucchini will tumble off when you take the first bite. This is definitely not a nosh to enjoy while walking around.
The Tricolore features prosciutto de Parma and creamy, milky gooey shreds of Di Stefano stracciatella, making for a sweet porky, salty, and buttery mouthful.
The Soppressata is one of the most popular varieties, probably because of its distinctive lick of sweet heat from Calabrian chilies, spicy salame Emilia, hot honey, and oozy house-made mozzarella. If you’re a pepperoni pizza fan, think of this as a far-better Italian version.
The Pomodoro e Burrata is a wonder to behold with yellow and red whole cherry tomatoes strewn all over the top around a big blob of the cream-centered mozzarella. You may need a fork with this one, as the tomatoes will definitely fly off everywhere if you try lifting it to your mouth. This is a very mild tasting pizza, and will probably benefit when summer delivers more intense tasting tomatoes in another couple of weeks.
The pizzas can be enjoyed just fine at room temperature, which is what we did when we got home. They are plenty crisp without needing to warm them up in the oven.
To go with all that pizza, I also picked up a side of Insalata di Riso Nero ($4.90), a salad of black rice accented by fresh peas, sugar snap peas, haricot vert, favas, and romano beans. I loved the bits of green Castelventrano olives that added a buttery, briny note. The salad is seasoned simply with olive oil, sea salt and black pepper, so the natural taste of the al dente veggies stays at the forefront.
On my way out — and yes, before I had eaten anything else — I stopped at the Il Gelato shop that’s right at the entrance on the first floor. With only a handful of flavors are offered, I zeroed right in on the pistachio ($4.90 for a single scoop in a cup).
It was thick, creamy, and very smooth with a rich pistachio taste. I can’t say the nuttiness rivaled the intensity of my favorite pistachio ice cream, though, at Bulgarini in Altadena, which I became a fan of after the late-great Jonathan Gold raved about it.
Still, Eataly’s, made with Italian pistachios and milk from Straus Family Creamery, made for a very fine treat. Or in my case, appetizer.
Pro Tip: Don’t try to to it all in one outing. And don’t go at prime time. The place is immense, especially if you really want to linger to examine all the offerings. And remember, it’s not nearly as easy as going to your local grocery store to pick up food items. You can’t just dash in and out with your purchases in a flash. You have to find parking (not always an easy feat at Valley Fair), walk into the mall, then stroll to Eataly, ascend two escalators if you want to get to the marketplace, and then haul your bags back down and out to your car. That’s why I am saving the market for my next trip there, when I plan to pick up fresh pasta, sauce, bread, aged prosciutto, cheese, and some of that tantalizing tiramisu in the refrigerator case for a very fine dinner at home, indeed.