I first discovered what joy was to be found within Eataly while recently walking through the original North American location in New York City. Now That same joy can be found in Chicago. Eataly was founded and created by Oscar Farinetti, an Italian businessmen who got his start in Italy at UniEuro, originally a small appliance and food retail store that he turned into one of the largest electronics retailers in Italy. Oscars mission with Eataly is “to make high quality Italian foods available to everyone, at fair prices and in an environment where people can shop taste and learn”.
Eataly was brought to North America by two driving forces, both sides passionate about true Italian food. The first B&B Hospitality Group which is the collaboration of culinary greats Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich, and Lidia Matticchio Bastianich. The other force being brothers Alex and Adam Saper whom through their discovery of Oscar’s Eatalys in Italy became passionate in their quest to bring it to North America.
All these amazing people have done something truly delightful by bringing the Italian marketplace experience right to the heart of North America. As mentioned previously Chicago is the second location with locations soon to open in Boston and Los Angeles along with a second location in New York. Future plans include introducing Eataly across more of North America and moving into South America as well. The concept has already been established in parts of Asia and the Middle East.
After my glimpse in New York, I could hardly contain my excitement heading into downtown Chicago. Thoughts dancing through my head of all the culinary delights I was about to see and taste.
The Chicago Eataly consists of 2 floors, 63,000 square feet, 9 restaurants, 21 retail departments, 10,000 products, 6 on-site production laboratories, and 1 classroom and conference room. Ranging from cheese to meet to fish to fresh produce to high quality Italian imports, anyone can find something here to eat or take home.
I wanted to try more then one area of Eataly so I decided that I would sit and have snacks in La Piazza where you can order from a menu offering an assortment of small bites from all the marketplace counters in the area. All the food I had at La Piazza was delicious and will be ordered again on future visits. House made Burrata ($11 usd) creamy and light. Piselli e ricotta bruschette ($7 usd) composed of green pea, mint, lemon, and ricotta, the perfect spread for a warm day when you want something light and fresh. Arancini ($13 usd) 3 of the most deliciously crisp balls with warm melted saffron risotto inside mixed with pork be veal ragu and peas.
Next I moved over to one of the restaurants, La Pizza La Pasta. Obviously I needed to taste something from each of the two themes. From La Pizza side of the restaurant I ordered the capricciosa ($19 usd) a delicious thin crust pizza done in the onsite pizza oven and topped with mozzarella, mushrooms, prosciutto cotto, artichokes, tomato sauce, olives and basil. Everything raised immensely fresh and created a delightful harmony of flavours. On La Pasta side of the menu there are an assortment of dishes available, either fresh pastas made in house or dry pastas that have been especially imported from Italy. I was eager to try something from the fresh made in house pastas and so I ordered the ravioli di prosciutto e ricotta. Simply ravioli stuffed with prosciutto and ricotta served with sage butter and parmigiano reggiano. I loved that the stuffing of the ravioli was really the star of the dish. The pasta itself was light and fresh and the sage butter subtle which allowed one to really taste the prosciutto in the stuffing.
If you are a lover of dolce (dessert) like I am then your next destination within Eataly has to be the ground floor where you have an abundance of choice to satisfy your sweet tooth. Decadent desserts that are nearly impossible to chose from, flavourful gelato that transports you to Italy, or a warm delicious crepe with Nutella from the Nutella bar.
If you are a lover of almost all things Italian such as me, you definitely need to make your way to Eataly.