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Bottega Falai - first impressions

sgordon Apr 22, 2011 10:10 AM

So I popped into Iacopo Falai's newest venture to see what's new, and it was quite different than what I expected. Though it's been described as a retail outlet carrying many of the ingredients they use in his restaurants, the retail section takes up only about 10% of the floor space. It's really more like a bakery - "Falai Panetteria" was already taken, I guess, but perhaps that might have been a better name, or "Pasticceria" or "Forno" or something. Breads, pastries, etc, and coffee seem to be the main focus, with a couple of tables in the middle for lounging with your eats.

Along one wall there's a small selection of packaged goods, pastas, jams, olive oil, etc, and a few bins of seasonal produce - very nice produce, I must say. I picked up an assortment - morels, fiddleheads, ramps (pictured below) and everything was very good quality, the morels big and meaty and grit-free. There were some white asparagus stalks that boggled the mind with their size - like baby arms in width. I like the idea that it's a small, well curated selection - just a few things, in season, perfect for putting together a dinner. There's no cheese or much charcuterie - and honestly, that's probably for the best, as why would you bother competing with DiPalo's just a short walk away? Would be silly to even bother. They should (and appear to be trying to) define their own thing.

"Curated" seemed to be the key word - there weren't 100 different brands of olive oil and 1,000 dried pastas like you'd see at Eataly - just a couple, the kinds that Chef Falai likes to use. And that's fine, there don't need to be more than that.

The chef was in the house, as to be expected, doing about six different things - stocking the shelves, ringing out customers, fixing an air conditioner(!) - I don't know if he recognized us as frequent customers from his flagship, or if he was just giving out lots of freebies for the first day, but he gave us some big honkin' chunks of bread with our veggies and pasta - a filone and about half a loaf of something else. Both were very good, straightforward, rustic - nice flaky crunch to the crust, soft and tender sponge underneath. We ate from then as we walked home, wishing we had a little something to put on them (a stop into DiPalo's for a fist of burratta solved that problem...)

Obviously, it was the first day, and there some things that hadn't made it to the shelves yet - including plastic bags for the produce. I'm curious to see where it goes, if the focus remains on the pastries / coffee / etc or if there'll be more take-out. There are certainly things I'd LIKE to see - the housemade fresh pastas and sauces from the restaurants seem like obvious choices, and that would certainly set them apart (and above, given the quality) other similar stores. I know I'd be happy to pay for a "DIY Falai Dinner" to go - a fresh pasta, a sauce, some veggies - just cook it yourself and add a protein, if you like.

Anyway, it seemed nice, if a bit unfinished - it was hard to tell if it'll be mainly a retail space or a coffee & pastry shop a la Panetteria. I'm curious to see where it goes, I imagine I'll be checking back in to find out.

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Falai
68 Clinton St, New York, NY 10002

Falai Panetteria
79 Clinton St, New York, NY 10002

Bottega Falai
267 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012