Imperial Eataly

Eataly Chicago
The opening of Eataly Chicago has generated considerable buzz.  When I visited on a recent weekend, the cavernous store was filled with curious shoppers checking it out.

Located near the Bloomingdale’s Home Store just off Michigan Avenue, Eataly is an 18,000 square-foot emporium devoted to Italian fare.

Its two-story space has the feel of an indoor market.  It offers 8 different dining options and stocks a wide variety of Italian housewares, groceries, wines, beer, and other specialty items.

Eataly in Chicago (view of the second floor)
Eataly is the brainchild of maverick retailer Oscar Farinetti, who, in partnership with celebrity chefs Mario Batali and Lidia Bastianich, has so far succeeded in establishing 26 Eatalies globally.  Besides the one in Chicago, there is one other Eataly in the US, in New York City.  (The rest of the stores are mainly in Italy and Japan, with one in Dubai and one in Turkey.)  Perhaps this accounts for Chicago’s palpable excitement and pride.

Eataly abuzz, © 2014 Celia Her City
The scale of the store and its ambitious concept are perhaps Eataly’s most distinctive features.  It has the sleek warehouse-type feel of an upscale Ikea, complete with groovy modern light-fixtures and eye-catching signs.

The signs preach a sermon about the excellence of the Italian approach to cuisine, which seems kind of misplaced, since Chicagoans are no strangers to Italian cooking and pretty sophisticated when it comes to drinking and food.

Drink aisle at Eataly in Chicago, © 2014 Celia Her City
The wares for sale are beautifully displayed.  This is one of the beverage aisles.  At the end are the honeys and the teas.

The breadth of the offerings is pretty impressive.

Eataly meat and cheese counter, Chicago
One of the stations, serving cured meats and cheeses.

Part of the selection of cheeses for sale at Eataly
Some of the Italian cheeses for sale.

Another of the cases displaying  Italian cheeses at Eataly Chicago
A huge assortment of cheese on both sides of the aisle.  Fresh mozzarella is made in-house each day.

Sweets at Eataly.
The pastries are complex and lovely; the prices high.

There were many patrons eating and drinking upstairs at Eataly that day
Stopping to eat and drink while grocery-shopping is an irresistible idea.  Eataly’s restaurants were crowded that day.

I stopped by on another occasion to sample the food and wasn’t impressed.  There are already so many wonderful smaller establishments in Chicago devoted to Italian food!  I worry that Eataly will put them out of business, but, then, Eataly’s location and its condescending tenor suggest that it is geared mainly toward neophytes and tourists.

On Yelp, Eataly is garnering decidedly mixed reviews.  Still, it’s a new hot spot.  If you’re in the vicinity, why not stop by and judge for yourself?

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