I have been waiting for an excuse to go to New York so I could visit Eataly. Imagine my glee when I heard Eataly, the ultimate Italian foodie experience outside of Italy, was coming to Chicago!
Eataly opened in Chicago on Monday. It is on East Ohio Street, between North Rush Street and North Wabash Avenue. Tuesday night, I had a few minutes after class, so I ran (literally ran 8 blocks) to venture into the 2 story tribute to a cuisine that brings comfort to millions of Italian Americans and wannabe Italians across Chicago. First, I have never experienced anything like it. Second, I, along with tons of Chicagoans, looked like a lost puppy, with my jaw on the floor and eyes the size of teacup saucers.
You walk in and see two stories of every possible food you never even knew you could have in one place. Nuttella bar? Check.
The chocolate, oh the chocolate – and the sweets! There is every kind of Italian inspired food gadget you could imagine, plus food nerd pieces such as silicone baking molds.
There is a cured meat and cheese section with good prosciutto and all my favorite cheeses. If you are a real nut for ‘good’ parmesan, Eataly welcomes you with entire wheels of authentic Parmigiano Reggiano. I almost fell over when I saw them, in a pile, stacked for show or pleasure, I am not sure which, right outside house-made mozzarella section.
What else? Everything else you can and can’t imagine. Aisle upon aisle of pasta, sauce, olive oils displayed like wine, vino – all kinds of vino, a meat shop, a seafood shop, set-up small town style within the two story megaplex.
Then there are little restaurants. I had a quick bite at Le Verdure, a vegetable restaurant. There is a section for brick oven pizzas, too. At Le Verdure, I had the Gnocchi alla Romana.
The gnocchi was excellent. I wish I had more time so I could have sampled more true vegetable dishes from the menu. The wait staff was very kind even though I was in a hurry. As I was walking through the cheese section I overheard one of the employees talking to a customer. He said, “They sent me here from the New York store to help get things started right.” I saw what looked like Joe Bastianich sitting down to pizza with two other serious businessmen in suits. Men and women were streaming into Eataly from their jobs in the city wearing full suits and dresses, grabbing a rotisserie chicken or other pre-made item for dinner, standing at the marble tabletop freestanding ‘bars’ sharing a glass of wine or meeting up for a date night. There were women with children, older couples and people of every race and ethnic background.
I will be going back soon (hopefully with more than 30 minutes) to explore, eat and enjoy! Next time I would like to do some Christmas shopping, try the gelato at the gelateria, sample the nutella treats at the nutella bar, buy some chocolates and savor the Neapolitan style pizza. Oh, and I might read some Ernest Hemingway before going. What? Yep, the Chicago location is dedicated to Ernest Hemingway, an Oak Park native & Italy lover.
After I get to spend more time in Eataly, I will post “Take 2.” I just could not wait to write about the experience! I would encourage you to go if you are ever in Chicago. There is a parking garage on the North side of E. Ohio street. It’s a cab ride (if you are wearing heels, feeling lazy or don’t want to freeze in the Chicago cold) from Water Tower Place and some of the best shopping in Chicago. I walked it no problem.