Saturday, May 3, 2014

Eataly Istanbul: "Italy is Eataly"

Dear readers,

The title of my post is not my slogan but rather belongs to Eataly!

According to my Foursquare check-ins, I have been to Eataly Istanbul, located at Zorlu Center in Zincirlikuyu 20 times since its opening on December 16, 2013... I personally think the number is higher and that I forgot to check-in a few times!

Why so many times you say? Well... Zorlu Center, one of the newest shopping malls on the European side in Istanbul, opened in mid-October 2013 and is about a 5 minute walk from my apartment! As a result, it's very convenient, and it is a partially "open-air" mall and besides a number of wonderful eateries (Tom's Kitchen, Morini, Jamie's Italian, Parle, etc. and the soon to open Cantinery), some of my favorite shops are there too (Louis Vuitton, Beymen, Michael Kors, Apple, etc.) According to my Foursquare check-ins, I've been to Zorlu Center 40 times and its become a running joke among my friends that it's my "home away from home"! I know I haven't written a general post on Zorlu Center, but I hope to get around to it at some point. 

Eataly was established in Torino, Italy in January 2007 and now has a total of 24 branches in Italy, Japan, NYC, Chicago, Dubai and now Istanbul and more are on the way in different cities around the world.

Before Eataly opened in Istanbul, I had an opportunity to visit their headquarters in Torino during my trip to the Piemonte region in October 2013 and was impressed with the concept and couldn't wait for the Istanbul branch to open... We also had a chance to have lunch at their fine dining restaurant Guido Per Eataly, which was excellent! 

The 2-story Eataly Istanbul is 8,000 square meters (the second largest branch after Rome) and has 7 restaurants (some with outdoor seating), a very spacious market, and an outdoor cafe on the first floor.

Eataly Istanbul
Eataly Istanbul
Eataly Istanbul
Eataly Istanbul
The above photos are just a very small sample of the products sold in the market at Eataly Istanbul, but less than the selections available in Torino. However, that's understandable because of importation, prices, etc. Besides a very wide range of Italian products, Turkish brands are also sold to include tea, coffee, cheese, chocolate, etc.

Although I have been to Eataly Istanbul at least 20 times, I haven't had a chance to test all the eateries, but I have eaten at what I call the "Top 3": Meat, Fish and Pizza/Pasta.

My first restaurant experience was at La Carne, located on the 2nd floor with an outdoor terrace...

Eataly Istanbul/Vitello Tonnato (left); Roasted Beef Polpettone (right)
On my first visit, I had the roasted duck - also preferred by my friend's husband and my friend had the grilled chicken. The "roasted" dishes on the menu are cooked on a rotating grill. On my second visit, I had the Vitello Tonnato which I ate a ton of while in Piemonte (very typical dish) and my friend had the Roasted Beef stuffed with spinach. 

If I had to critique the dishes we tried... I personally think the roasted dishes need some more work... the taste is "okay", but it's missing something...

My favorite among the three restaurants I visited is Il Fritto e Il Pesce, or Seafood Restaurant...

Eataly Istanbul/Grilled Red Sea Bream
 I've had lunch here by myself twice and both were excellent experiences! The restaurant has a menu, but I haven't even glanced at it yet to be honest! I prefer to look at the fish display (see picture above in the general section on market) and make my own selection with the help of the fishmonger. Once you make your selection, the fishmonger weighs the fish to determine the price of the fish and then 15 TL is added to the price of the fish. The dishes are served with a side of roasted potatoes and greens, but as you can see, I only opted for lots of greens on both occasions! 

Eataly Istanbul/Grilled Shrimp
I sat on the terrace because the weather was gorgeous, but indoor seating is also available.

The last in my threesome is the very popular La Pasta e la Pizza Restaurant, allocated the most area with spacious indoor and outdoor seating areas. 
Eataly Istanbul
Eataly Istanbul/Margherita Pizza & Homemade Pasta Display 
Eataly Istanbul/Tomato & Mozzarella & Lasagna
Eataly Istanbul/Beef Carpaccio
I totally enjoyed all the dishes I had at this restaurant and all were absolutely delicious! When all the ingredients are homemade and fresh, it makes a big difference! On my first visit for lunch (self), I had a Margherita Pizza, which was exceptional! Second time, I went for dinner with a friend where we shared Homemade Mozzarella Cheese & Tomato and for mains, my friend had lasagna (delicious) and I had a pasta dish which I took a photo of, but to be quite honest, the picture didn't do the dish justice and I didn't want to post a poorly taken photograph... I can't remember the name of the dish I had because it wasn't a "typical" penne, linguine.. type pasta and it was prepared with a plain white sauce (just pecorino cheese). I looked at the menu on their website, but it's not listed there because this dish, along with a few others have recently been added to the menu, which has not yet been updated on the website. And... just a couple of days ago, I stopped by for lunch and had the best Beef Carpaccio I've had in ages! What made the dish soooo good was the olive oil/lemon dressing which was perfect and I didn't have to add any other flavors to "jazz" it up! Of course, all the the above mentioned dishes in all sections of the restaurant were accompanied with a glass (or two) of Italian wine! The Italian wines offered at each restaurant might not be the same, so you will have an opportunity to try different Italian wines at affordable prices. 

Final note on all restaurants: you can't make reservations for any of the restaurants, so be prepared to wait, especially on the weekends and during the evenings. Also... there is no coffee/tea service at any restaurant and there are a variety of small "cafes" on both levels as well as Caffe Illy, their main cafe on the 1st floor.

Eataly Istanbul/Caffe Illy
I stop by Caffe Illy every time I go to Eataly, so I have been there at least 20 times! I enjoy having a cup of coffee, wine or prosecco (depending on the time of day) before or after I buy my fruits, vegetables, wine, etc. before I make the short walk home... The hot/cold beverages list is quite extensive (including Turkish coffee and traditional Turkish tea) and the menu also includes wines and liqueurs. There is also a dessert menu with delectable goodies which I haven't succumbed to eating at the cafe yet, but I must admit, I did purchase to take home a few times (no wonder I can't stay on a diet anymore!). However, just last night, I stopped by Eataly with my friend Nur after we had dinner at another eatery at Zorlu and had ice cream! It is not served at the cafe, but you can purchase your ice cream and then sit at the cafe and order a beverage. 
Eataly Istanbul
Finally, for the past month or so, Caffe Lilly started serving a variety of hot/cold sandwiches from its two restaurants Il Panino & Piadina, also located on the first floor, but which do not have outdoor eating areas. I've tried a few of the hot sandwiches and highly recommend you try "Verdure Grigliate" (grilled mixed marinated vegetables with homemade stracciatella cheese) and "Erbetto E Scamorza" (spinach, chard and homemade melted scamorza cheese), which is pictured above.

Well... I'm done! I hope I have been able to give you a well-rounded feel for Eataly's concept and why I do so enjoy going there... I can buy top quality fruits and vegetables (Kolaylar Manav, a well-known green grocer is their supplier), meat, fish, wine, cheese, bread... you name it to take home; have a meal at one of the 7 restaurants; have a glass of wine, a frothy cup of Turkish coffee or a macchiato at the Cafe during the day or night. Check their website for opening/closing hours as it varies and I hope you enjoy your visit to Eataly Istanbul. ( 

Stay well,

Coming soon! Just like at the Eataly in Torino, by the end of May, a fine dining restaurant will be opening at Eataly Istanbul! 3-Michelin Star Chef Massimo Bottura, owner of Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy (ranked in 3rd place at "The World's 50 Best Restaurants 2014") is opening "Ristorante Italia", his first restaurant outside of Italy in Istanbul at Eataly! Can't wait to try it out!

3 Michelin Star Chef Massimo Bottura