Baita is the Piemontese word for a small ski lodge in the Italian alps. Baita 2.0 in Flatiron’s Eataly offers patrons their own dine-in log cabin where they can indulge in beef shanks, creative seasonal drinks, and new approaches to polenta. It is cold and rugged in the wintry Italian alps! After a hard day of trekking in the snow and herding sheep, Piemontese people need warm food and shelter.
Now Baita 2.0, the only restaurant in town which offers a polenta bar, fills this need for New Yorkers. It is currently possible for us to sit in a wooden hut and enjoy hearty and warm northern Italian cuisine which is replete with chunky stews made with beef, dishes prepared with rich butter, and flavorful cured meats.
Instead of climbing an alp to reach their dine-in log cabin, Baita guests board the elevator to the roof of Eataly (the largest Italian marketplace in the world created by Oscar Farinetti). Upon arrival, they enter a spacious room containing a welcoming long bar which takes up an entire wall. Wooden chairs adorned with animal skins surround beautifully set tables. The room’s focal point is a magnificent sky light retractable glass ceiling which offers a view of the Flatiron Building. True, the Flatiron Building is no sheep strewn alp. But seeing this iconic building through this potentially snow flaked ceiling while eating hearty Italian peasant food such as rustic polenta, homemade sausage, and mulled wine has its own special charm.
After emerging from the elevator, I was immediately drawn to the buffet table which was bulging with hard cheeses, several kinds of prosiutto, polenta mixed with pumpkin, and little dishes filled with potatoes and pickled vegetables. Executive Chef Fritz Tallon served “passed assagi” which consisted of Sciatt (beer battered and fried piave cheese), Strangolapreti Con Burro E Salvia (homemade bread and spinach dumplings with butter and sage), and Tagliata Di Manzo (grilled Bohemian sanke river wagyu steak with braised radicchio). I was told that the steak was braised for thirty hours. Well the lengthy braising showed in that this was the softest and best meat that I have ever tasted. I heard it through the room’s grapevine that the Tagliata Di Manzo was the most popular dish.
At the end of the opening event, everyone was called to assemble in front of the hut to view what was described to me as “a roasted cow leg.” It was huge—the biggest hunk of beef I have ever seen. This beef shank option, which takes several hours to prepare, is intended for groups of ten or more. It is accompanied by three side dishes consisting of roasted winter squash, mashed potatoes, and beer-braised Brussels sprouts. I peered into the hut and stared at the shank while trying to come to grips with its size. Two men jokingly asked me if I could eat the whole thing. As I shook my head to indicated “no way,” I thought that coming back to Baita with nine friends to help me tackle the shank was in my future.
As I ventured back out into the reality of a balmy autumn Manhattan day, I looked forward to, when the snow eventually flies, returning to Biata and pretending to be an alp-trekking northern Italian denizen. Hut and large shank here I come!
– Marleen Barr
Photos via Eataly