Mark your calendars for December 2nd Chicagoans! The day we have all been eagerly anticipating – the Eataly Chicago opening – is almost here, and after attending the press preview I can assure you that it everything we have hoped for and more. I still can’t believe that Mario Batali, Lidia Bastianich, and Joe Bastianich lead the tour! It was a very memorable afternoon.
It was a blustery snowy day in Chicago, and Eataly is the perfect place to explore on a chilly day. Its 63,000 square feet hold a mix of stands selling ingredients and prepared food. I can’t wait to spend another day wandering around with a glass of wine tasting everything.
The tour began with an introduction from the Eataly team. Mario (now that I have met him, we are on a first name basis, right?) explained that the Chicago Eataly is dedicated to Ernest Hemingway, a Chicagoan who spent a considerable amount of time in Italy. Photos of Hemingway in Italy decorate the second floor of Eataly.
The tour took us from eatery to eatery where tastings of wine and food were waiting for us. At one point Joe was worried that we didn’t have wine in our hands. This problem was immediately resolved. Mario focused on feeding us, passing around trays of food himself.
Mario made a point to tell us that Eataly is not the most expensive grocery store in town. He actually guaranteed it. I don’t think Chicago has anything comparable to Eataly. They carry top notch Italian imports that I doubt you could find elsewhere in the city. The vast selections of products includes olive oil, wine, pasta, cured meats, cheeses, and seafood. Pasta and mozzarella are made fresh daily. Mario explained that the philosophy of Eataly is to remove the obstacles facing American home cooks by making gourmet Italian ingredients available.
Eataly Chicago is significantly larger than the New York location, which means that Chicago has more eateries. The extra eateries include La Carne which is a casual dining restaurant with a meat-centric menu, and il Fritto that serves fried Italian foods like calamari and arancini. Plus there is a Nutella bar.
La Pizza serves Neapolitan style pizza. Mario made a point to say that the pizza is not New York Style and that is not Chicago style. The pizza is cooked in ovens so hot that the pizzas cook in just 90 seconds. The crust was thin and crispy, and the edges were nice and doughy. This is easily some of the best pizza in Chicago.
The fine dining restaurant, Baffo, is opening on December 10th and it will be similar to Batali’s New York City eatery, Babbo. I am sure it will quickly become one of the most difficult reservations to secure in Chicago. The 80 seat enoteca will offer seasonal food and an extensive wine list.
Eataly by the numbers:
1 Fine Dining Restaurant
1 Nutella Bar
The Cost: $28 Million
Eataly is located at 43 East Ohio Street in Chicago’s River North. The coffee bar opens at 7am, and the full store opens at 10am. Eataly closes at 10pm. If you go, be sure to try the Cacio e Pepe, Mario highly recommended it.