Hiding their cheese? Are Batali and company ditching plans to bring Eataly to the District? (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)

I asked Batali about his plans for an Eataly in Washington, and he talked big about the project, an extension of the 40,000-square-foot Italian gastronomic playland at 200 Fifth Avenue in New York.

“I don’t know what anyone is telling you, but I think to go and do it right in D.C., it has to be the same size,” Batali said. “I don’t want to do it smaller. Smaller? That’s like a little outpost. It’s like a remainder store.”

It’d be like an airport outlet, I offered.

Batali laughed and said, “Exactly. That’s not what I’m going to do. We’re going to bring the full [thing] when we go down. Five restaurants and the bookstore and the Birreria and the whole thing.”

He also mentioned that he and his partners hadn’t signed a lease yet, which got me worried. So I made a few calls today to commercial real estate brokers, who all spoke anonymously since the search for an Eataly space apparently continues.

“As I understand it, they’re not coming,” one broker told me. “I specifically spoke with somebody involved with them…They came down and took a look around and didn’t see anything they like.”

The problem is trying to find a specific space that meets all the requirements for Eataly: more than 30,000 square feet for retail, restaurants and markets — all on one grand floor, not multiple floors — as well as another 8,000 or so square feet for a rooftop beer garden. Those kind of spaces are in short supply in Washington, unless the Smithsonian starts leasing space on the Mall.

“I think it’s a challenge for them to recreate what they’ve created in New York,” said a second commercial real estate broker. “I don’t know if they’ve seen anything that really gets them excited.”

More as we know it.