First Impressions: Il Pesce at Eataly

Il Pesce at Eataly Downtown NYCBack story: I assume you’re familiar with the Eataly concept by now. The new downtown outpost, on the third floor of 4 World Trade Center, includes five restaurants: Osteria della Pace, the relatively fancy option, and apparently the only restaurant that takes reservations; the self-explanatory La Pizza & La Pasta; a wine bar called La Piazza; Orto e Mare, serving “vegetable-forward small plates”; and Il Pesce, a seafood restaurant.

The vibe: Adam and arrived at noon on Saturday, hoping to try the pizzeria, only to find a dozen people waiting in line. We swam back upstream through the crowds to Orto e Mare, but it wasn’t seating anyone till 12:15 p.m., and we were crunched for time. And that’s how we ended up at Il Pesce, in the southwest corner of the building, overlooking the 9/11 Museum and Memorial. (The restaurant was pretty empty when we sat down—which is when I took these photos—but jammed when we left.) This Eataly has pushed its restaurants to the perimeter, granting diners natural light, marvelous views, and refuge from the hustle-bustle. The decor is refreshingly contemporary rather than ye olde Italian, although those smooth surfaces may prove troublesomely noisy at night, when more people are drinking alcohol.

Il Pesce dining room at Eataly Downtown NYCMenu: The menu is the same at lunch and dinner; according to the website, there’s a chalkboard with specials, but we didn’t see it and no one mentioned anything of the sort. We ordered everything to share: marinated salmon, seared mackerel with caponata, fritto misto, and linguine with mussels.

Il Pesce Eataly menuGold star: I had suggested the pizza restaurant because I thought its kitchen was the most likely to be on firm footing less than a week after opening. But the food at Il Pesce was definitely the highlight. Three of the four dishes warranted high marks: The mackerel was really good; the linguine was simple but pleasantly buttery; and the fritto misto was delicately fried and still hot.

Il Pesce salmon and mackerel at Eataly Downtown NYCFritto Misto at Pesce at Eataly Downtown NYCLinguine with mussels at Il Pesce at Eataly Downtown NYCRoom for improvement: Every interaction with the staff, from host to server to runner to busser, was tinged with ineptitude. The individual incidents are less important than the overall impression, which is that the management has hired people with negligible restaurant experience (and certainly not at this price range). That doesn’t have to be a problem—it can even be admirable—but the employees need significantly more training.

Anything else? There were a lot of kids—and this was at the seafood restaurant. That’s life in Lower Manhattan, of course, especially at weekend lunch. I wonder whether Eataly had any idea of how desperate families in FiDi and Battery Park City are for new places to eat: The staff didn’t seem to know what to do with people’s strollers. P.S. Eataly’s website says it’ll be closed today (August 15) and again on August 22.

Contact: Il Pesce is inside Eataly, which is on the third floor of 4 World Trade Center, most easily accessible from the entrance at Church and Liberty;

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  1. Restaurants are closing between 3:30 and 4:30 to give the kitchen a break. I was told that this will continue for a few weeks.

    It isn’t just the waiters who need training. I was having trouble following the signs to the restaurants and asked a greeter where they were. He told me that there were no restaurants…

  2. I agree that the staff is in dire need of training. I went on Friday and stopped at the wine bar to grab a glass while I shopped. First, I asked for a rosé and they apologized that they didn’t have any chilled. This is August in Manhattan, how are you not prepared to serve rosé. Second, I asked for a wine that would be Sancerre like and the gentleman asked me if it was red or white – oy vey!!!

  3. Outstanding band name — “Tinged With Ineptitude”

  4. We had lunch at La Pizza & La Pasta yesterday. There was a 30min wait. The service could have been more organized. We wanted a table for 3 but they stuck us at a table for 2 anyway and had our almost 4 yrs old in a high chair. It was cramped. We had to asked for water and flagged a waiter down to take our order. They definitely have kinks to work out.

    On the bright side, we definitely like this location a lot more than the one at Flat Iron. We brought our stroller and was able to navigate with ease. :-)

  5. It’s possible that the bartender doesn’t know Sancerre but apparently neither does Jason. Sancerre is used to make red, white, and rose varieties.

    I’ve been to the new Eataly several times already as many friends want to check it out and I’m happy to oblige (tough job I know). I have to cut both management and the staff a lot of slack. No amount of training could prepare them for the onslaught. On balance, they’re holding up well and patrons seem to appreciate the challenges. Everyone has been super friendly.

    The food is great as you would expect with bright spots being Il Pesce, Pizza/Pasta, Osteria della Pace, Lavazza, and what I predict will be a dark horse hit —La Piadina. La Piazza is actually a wine bar in disguise — keep it in mind for drinks for after work.

    A few nitpicks but again it’s early days — the grab n go wine bar at the entrance is clever but needs more wines, Lavazza doesn’t have enough seating (no way to fix this), and female friends tell me the woman’s bathroom is too small.

    • I agree that La Piadina is amazing!!!

    • N, it appears that you have a misunderstanding of Sancerre as well. Sancerre is made from Sauvignon Blanc (white grape) that is grown in the Loire Valley and accounts for over 80% of the region’s production. You are confusing it with Sancerre Rouge which is a rose style made from Pinot Noir (red grape) that is also grown in the Loire Valley. I find Wine Spectator or Robert Parker will be able to bring you up to speed with a little studying on your part. Cheers!

      • Sancerre, just to be clear, is a region. The Sancerre AOC, which covers wine production in that region, encompasses white wine (made from sauvignon blanc), red wine (made from pinot noir) and rose wine (also pinot noir). So if you see Sancerre on a label, or simply ask for it by name, those truly in the know could be forgiven for asking red, white, or rose. Actually, they should be applauded, because they would truly understand the rules of the AOC system that makes French wine so wonderfully confusing. And if they really know their stuff, they might recommend a Menetou-Salon – same grapes, less money.

  6. I too, visited Eataly this past Saturday and did notice some disorganization from the staff but think it’s a bit silly to not cut them some slack – the place was a zoo. The sit-down food and wine were superb. The groceria options – fruit, pastas, condiments, sweets, snacks, fresh fish, veggies were amazing. I will say they need to get themselves organized for what I suspect will be ongoing and growing demand. I, for one, am thrilled to see places of this caliber move into the hood and I want them to be successful.

  7. I went around noon today only to find it closed for the day for Staff training (according to the bouncers at the bottom of the escalators). I’m not sure if it was planned or impromptu – either way not a good start.