Features NY Life — 04 August 2011
Birreria: Eataly Introduces New York’s Newest Beer Garden

Inside the hallowed walls of Eataly, the massive Italian cathedral spawned from a collection of minds like Lidia Bastaniach and Mario Batali, food and drink options are plentiful. With a steakhouse, a vegetarian restaurant, a seafood spot, pasta and pizza stops, a fully equipped gelato and coffee bar, a fresh Italian meat and cheese counter, and enough imported Italian culinary ingredients to fill the canals in Venice, the founders had every base covered in preparing an ultimate one-stop experience for New Yorkers. And the only thing that had been missing, a living, breathing beer garden- Birreria- is now open, and wow is it an incredible sight.

Coming after work without a reservation proved to be a mistake, considering the diminutive size of the bar area, which was “at capacity” when we first arrived. Unfortunately, we were simply looking to grab a few drinks, and the available tables in Birreria are strictly for diners. Nonetheless, we found the Birreria sign, tucked in the back of Eataly’s ground floor near the checkout lines, spoke briefly with the hostess, and began what was only a short wait. Once the bar area thinned out a bit, we walked through the corridor into an elevator and headed up to the 14th floor. The elevator let us out into another corridor, reminiscent of the back area of a supermarket, with signs pointing to Birreria.

Once inside, we marveled at the sheer appearance of the space. Unfortunately some minor rainfall had forced the retractable roof covering the entire 170 seat restaurant to be closed. But that didn’t detract from the experience for us. The back bar is lined with eight oak barrels filled with different wines on tap (it should be noted how refreshing the “Bastaniach Sauvignon B 2009″ tastes as a summery white). While the bar area had all of its seats occupied, I don’t know that the term “at capacity” would be deemed appropriate. However, with so many tables having dinner, I would imagine Birreria keeps the space relatively clear to avoid any overwhelming disturbances or fire hazards. Although the large barrels are eye-catching, Birreria boasts an outstanding selection of draught beers that are brewed unfiltered and unpasteurized, fermented in casks and served via hand pumps, served right to each drinker, fresh and delicious. With help from Dogfish Head, Baladin, and Del Borgo, each of the house brews are $10, while the other ten excellent offerings like the “Sixpoint Righteous Rye” and “Ommegang Rare Vos” range from $6 to $8 each. The bottled craft beers are a bit pricier- the “Baladin Wayan” and the “Allagash Curieux” for instance both serve 3 people in 750ml bottles and are priced at $28. Regardless, Birreria manages to offer a bevy of beverages that you likely haven’t tasted anywhere else.

On our most recent trip to Eataly, we avoided splurging on a full meal at Birreria, although the plates on each table were mouthwatering. The menu is on the pricier side, but it is also versatile, ranging from Italian cheeses (“formaggi”- 3 for $11; 7 for $17) and meats (“salumi” $11 ea.; 2 for $21) to house made sausages ($21 ea.) and grill fare like boneless quail with Sambuca ($22), Pennsylvania chicken thigh ($19), and a skirt steak with salsa verde ($24). All of the meats come from Pat LaFrieda, who seems to be the name supplier of farm fresh beef to Manhattan’s elite restaurants.

Birreria manages to class up the traditional depiction of a beer garden, infusing Italian sensibility and quality wines and beers for a truly distinct drinking experience in Manhattan. Long gone are the German oompah-bands and the large steins of beers cling-clanging together in the middle of a drunken afternoon. In their stead comes one of the more refined odes to fine drinking to come along in quite some time. While seating might be limited, once you are able to secure one, you won’t want to leave. For more information on Eataly’s newest restaurant and beer garden or to make a reservation, check out Birreria.

- Jane Van Arsdale

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