200 5th Ave.
New York, New York 10010
Phone: (212) 937-8910
Hours: Sun.-Wed. 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m., Thurs.-Sat. 11:30 a.m.-Midnight

Celebrity chef Mario Batali has developed a virtual empire of culinary landmarks across Manhattan.  One of his newest and boldest ventures is the one-stop foodie wonderland called Eataly, which rests in the shadow of the Flatiron building in Manhattan.  Eataly harkens to European food markets, offering everything from fresh meats and pastas to imported olive oils and wines to a diverse array of cheeses.  From fresh produce to fresh squid ink pasta, Eataly is a food lover’s paradise.

In addition to the multitude of culinary treats for sale, the Eataly space also includes a number of restaurants including a salami, cheese, and wine (La Piazza), a farm-to-table spot (La Verdure), and a spot offering hand carved artisanal sandwiches (Rosticceria).  On a recent visit to Eataly (which is, in itself, worth a trip if you’re visiting New York), we grabbed reservations at Birreria, the rooftop beer garden atop Eataly.

Birreria is a busy, bustling spot that requires an elevator ride in a special elevator inside Eataly.  Reservations are definitely a good idea, as waits can be long, particularly when the weather is nice.  Birreria features retractable roofing, and is heated in winter, making it a year-round spot to grab a glass of wine or beer, delicious bites, and take advantage of amazing views of Manhattan.

In addition to the stellar views, Birreria also offers a unique range of beverage offerings.  Doubling as a brewery, Birreria’s menu includes a trio of house brewed cask ales (on our visit, we sampled a delicious cask ale with hints of thyme), as well as a number of unique draft beers (the Moretti Bionda was a crisp, clean lager popular in our group).  For wine lovers, wines rest in barrels on site, and glasses and carafes are filled directly from the barrels’ spouts.  We wanted to sample more options, but the service was a bit slow and confused where drinks where concerned.

Although Birreria is worth a visit for the drinks and views alone, the food we sampled at this spot was delicious.  We started with the formaggi (cheese plate), which included a varied range of cheeses spanning from soft, subtle options like ricotta fresca and robiola bosina to bolder options like parmigiano and gorgonzola dolce.  Served with slices of rustic bread, the formaggi plate is a great partner for a round of drinks or a great kick-off to a full meal.

We paired our cheese plate with the salumi platter, which appeared at the table on a wooden cutting board and included a sampling of meats from a smoky aged prosciutto (speck) to a hunter’s style pork (cacciatorini) to a traditional mortadella.

From there, we moved on to our entrees.  We started with a tasty boneless quail.  The quail was perfectly prepared, with tender, delicate meat and a crispy exterior.  The gaminess of the quail was offset by the accompanying Sambuca braised fennel and wilted greens.  The quail used at Birreria hails from the country’s oldest producer of farm raised quail, and lacked antibiotics and growth hormones.

The next entree we sampled was the braised pork shoulder.  Birreria’s pork shoulder was a beautifully plated dish braised in beer and perfectly seared on the outside.  The tender meat was accented with celery, cucumber, and persimmon, and the dish was finished with a zesty mustard vinaigrette.  The pork shoulder melted in your mouth and was cut-with-a-fork tender.  Like the quail, the pork was farm raised, and of the highest quality.

The final entree we tasted was also our favorite.  The chicken thighs were juicy and flavorful with unbelievably crispy skins.  The thighs were served with rustic Tuscan bread chunks and a refreshing tomato salad.  This dish was simple yet sophisticated, and the kind of dish you want to eat again and again.

Too often, the flash of celebrity masks underwhelming food.  But Birreria and Eataly itself illustrate the amazing results that can be yielded when the celebrity is earned from craftsmanship, experimentation, and bravado.  Birreria is a beautiful spot with spectacular views (particularly at sunset) and even more spectacular food.  It is a haven in the bustling city where you can grab a unique drink with friends or sit down for an amazing meal that manages to be both rustic and sophisticated at the same time.

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