Foodie Tuesday: Eataly

There are foodies and there are people who take it further — the food geeks. If you’re like me — waiting eagerly for your favorite produce to arrive in season, spending hours reading old books on the history of cooking and fascinated by the minute differences between cooking techniques like braising and poaching — you might be a food geek. We take food seriously, with a need to know the story behind the dish, to honor the ritual and tradition. Foodies love the Food Network channel, while food geeks prefer PBS. If you’re a food geek, you’ll appreciate the Eataly app. If you’re a foodie, you’ll probably hate it.

From the folks behind the famous Italian market in New York City by the same name, Eataly is an ode to the Italian osteria, where local foods are prepared with love and traditional Italian cooking is preserved. The app includes 1,000 recipes from inns recommended by Slow Food, as well as detailed information on Italian wines. Though Eataly is beautifully designed, it’s a simple app and there are no photos of the recipes. Serious food geeks don’t need photos, though, and will be inspired by the authentic Italian recipes.

Interested in geeking out on Italian food and wine? Keep reading.

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Getting Started

I’ve never been to the Italian marketplace and restaurant brought to life in the U.S. by the famous Mario Batali and Bastianich family partnership, but it’s definitely on my bucket list. Luckily, I can enjoy Eataly through their website and mobile app. If you’re a fan of these famous chefs you know they march to the beat of their own drum, unapologetically sharing their love of Italian cuisine in a genuine way. They tell the full story, and they don’t care if it fits into a 30 second sound byte. You’re going to have to slow down, have a seat at the table and pour a glass of wine.

Just like the website, the Eataly app has an attractive, modern design. The home screen, right, is the recipes section with 1,000 regional dishes for you to browse through.

Just like the website, the Eataly app has an attractive, modern design. The home screen, right, is the recipes section with 1,000 regional dishes for you to browse through.

Launch the app and you’ll find it has the same modern, fresh design as the Eataly website. The recipes section can be found on the home screen, and a toolbar at the bottom of the screen offers options for learning about Italian wines, visiting Eataly stores across the globe, viewing your favorited recipes and browsing seasonal ingredients in the calendar.

The Recipes

Recipes are divided into four categories: Vegetable, Fish, Meat and Dessert. It would be nice to see more categories, especially pasta, since users would probably be looking for that in an Italian app. Select a category and you’ll find an alphabetized list of every recipe in that category. This can be a bit overwhelming, and it would be nice to see the categories broken down a bit further, for example, by type of vegetable or fish species or even cooking method. Scrolling through a list of hundreds of recipes doesn’t really take advantage of the functionality that mobile has to offer.

One cool thing about the search tool, though, is if you search for an ingredient in a category (such as zucchini in Vegetables), only recipes within that category will show up. If you want to see all recipes containing zucchini, you should search for it on the main recipe page. Food geeks will catch on to this quickly and appreciate the functionality. Too bad you can only search for the English keywords, as many dishes would be easier to find by their Italian name, like arancini, or rice balls.

Select a recipe category to view an alphabetize list of the dishes. Vegetables, left, Meat pictured right.

Select a recipe category to view an alphabetize list of the dishes. Vegetables, left, Meat pictured right.

The amount of recipes is mind boggling, and you’ll come across treasures that you would never find in a mainstream cookbook, like the uber seasonal “Elderflower Fritters” or the rustic “Tripe and Chickpea Soup.” They mention donkey meat, fried lamb’s intestines and stewed horse meat —which may seem ridiculous to foodies but food geeks will nod in affirmation of how Eataly shares the whole story of Italian cuisine, not just the glamorous dishes.

The recipes don’t include a photo, but the value is in their historical importance and how Eataly gives the whole story of a cuisine, from the everyday to the obscure.

The recipes don’t include a photo, but the value is in their historical importance and how Eataly gives the whole story of a cuisine, from the everyday to the obscure.

Some may be disappointed in the no frills style of the recipe cards, but you’ve got to remember the strength of the app is in the sheer number of traditional recipes handed down over generations. It’s like your precious grandmother’s handwritten recipes, carefully scrawled on faded index cards. In the top right corner you’ll find the Italian name and a credit to the osteria with the region in Italy. Ingredients are provided in both grams and ounces, sometimes in more general terms like a glass of wine or a pinch of salt, again reinforcing that feeling of being at grandma’s apron strings.

The Wine

The Wines section of the app is dedicated to Italian grape varieties and regions, listed alphabetically. Again, scrolling through a huge list like this is a bit one dimensional for the mobile interface, but wine aficionados will relish the lengthy descriptions and historical accounts. Just like the recipes, the lengthy list of wines includes everything from table wines to world-renowned varieties to the obscure.

I counted at least 86 wine varieties listed, each with an in depth history and flavor description. Everything is here, from the famous Barbera to other lesser known varieties.

I counted at least 86 wine varieties listed, each with an in depth history and flavor description. Everything is here, from the famous Barbera to other lesser known varieties.

Tap on a wine to view the full description, including history and genealogy, as well as flavor profile and a full account of the grape-growing region. This section of the app is great for referencing a newly discovered wine when you’re at a restaurant or wine shop, especially if you utilize the search tool.

Conclusion

Eataly is an app that embraces the Slow Food movement without compromise. The collection of recipes is something you would find in an old tattered book of traditional Italian cooking, not a sleek and modern mobile app. You’re going to need a long attention span and an appreciation for the story behind the food and wine to love this app. Browse the recipes, reference the wines have fun playing with the ingredients wheel to see what produce is in season now. Don’t expect Eataly to behave like your average commercialized food app. Accept Eataly for what it is, a treasure trove of traditional Italian recipes and wines. Eataly is the full story, no apologies.


Summary

Eataly is a treasure trove of traditional Italian recipes and wines - everything from risotto to stewed tripe - a food geek's paradise.

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