Le Verdure (at Eataly)
Eataly is one giant mall-like shrine to Italian food, within which are lots of little mini-shrines: the restaurants of Eataly. There's pizza, pasta, fish, meats, cheeses: each in their own separate corner of Eataly's sprawl. The popular attractions may be pizza and pasta and such, but with Eataly's impressive produce selection, I thought it was due time that the Vegetarian Option put Le Verdure—Eataly's all-vegetable restaurant—to the test.
The Bruschetta appetizer ($10) surely looks delicious, but I was still shocked at the first bite by how good it really is. The thick, soft bread (from Eataly's bread department, of course) and smooth, light ricotta are fantastic, but the intensified lightly-roasted flavor of the oven dried tomatoes really sets this dish apart. The care taken in bringing out every last bit of flavor from those tomatoes is a prime example of what vegetable-centric cooking should be. Essentially, it was one of the best renditions of a tomato I've come by. From our first dish at Le Verdure, the bar was suddenly set quite high.
The Verdure Alla Piastra ($18) is a selection of warm vegetables, gently cooked and glistening with oil in every crevice. It may be a tad heavy on the oil, but it's a flaw easily overlooked. The simplicity (but not lack of) seasoning really lets the top-notch quality of Eataly's produce shine through. The vegetables are served around a farro salad: slightly bitter and citrusy, it's the perfect palate cleanser between bites of perfectly cooked vegetables.
Simply put, the Portobello Con Pesche ($17, pictured above) is a triumph. Pairing portobello mushrooms with peaches surely sounds like it's venturing into creative-idea-but-disastrous-in-reality territory, but the chef pulls it off. The mushrooms themselves are succulent and juicy; prepared as if they were a fine cut of meat. And while I had feared that the sweet-savory pairing would seem forced, the tender and supple peach slices complement the mushrooms quite naturally, in part thanks to a light glaze of amazing aged balsamic vinegar. It's rare to find a vegetable-only dish that can so firmly hold its ground as a main course.
In short, Le Verdure does its vegetables justice. Too often all-vegetable restaurants tend to over-complicate and over-compensate, but Eataly is not afraid to let their ingredients shine with a daring simplicity and a passion for flavor. Eataly may be huge, crowded, touristy, over-hyped, and yes—expensive; and yet the food at Le Verdure still delivers above and beyond expectations. Ultimately, the dollar-to-happiness ratio is truly a steal.
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