Eataly Chicago opens December 2 in River North

The Italian mega-store opens with eight restaurants, a gelateria and retail counters for pasta, cured meats and more.

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Eataly (43 E Ohio Ave, 312-321-5944, eataly.com) opened this month and immediately elevated Chicago's Italian food scene. With dozens of eateries, a wine bar and a brewery, and a Nutella bar, Eataly ensures you'll eat very well. But as home cooks, we're also excited about the shops, which sell meats, cheeses, fresh pasta and imported Italian goods we previously didn't have access to.

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Here’s some great, great news for Italian food fans—Eataly, the massive Italian food market from Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich and Lidia Matticchio Bastianich, opens December 2 at 4pm at 43 E Ohio Avenue. There are eight restaurants, retail counters for meat, fish, pasta, cheese, pastry and cured meat, two coffee bars, a Nutella counter, a microbrewery, a bookstore, gelateria and more, so there’s a lot to take in.

To help navigate the 63,000 square foot emporium, we talked to Alex Saper, a partner the general manager of the Chicago store, and stopped by for a photo tour. Here’s what to expect. 

How is the Chicago store different from prior incarnations of Eataly?
All the ones we do are slightly different, since they’re in different spaces and locations. For starters, this is larger than the New York store and we have new concepts, like a meat-focused casual restaurant where you can get a steak, sausages and grilled chicken. Plus Chicago has different laws, and we can sell wine throughout the store, whereas in New York, it’s in a separate spot with a separate entrance.

What are some of the other restaurants? 
There’s a fritto bar, with Italian fried foods. There's a fine dining restaurant, and meat, fish, vegetable, pizza and pasta restaurants. There’s a piazza, a standup bar where you can get a plate of salumi and cheese, wine, fresh mozzarella. We have a birriera, which is where we brew our own beer, and the beer will be specific to Eataly. We’ll also have Italian beers and local Chicago beers.

How is everything laid out?
There are two floors and the concept of Eataly is to integrate everything. We have eight restaurants, and right next to those are retail areas. Where we’re selling pasta, there will be a pasta restaurant right next to it.

Are you using and selling mostly Italian products? Or local products?
It’s a mix of both. We bring the best we can from Italy, like pastas, sauces, canned tomatoes, honey, cheeses, jams. Then we have a lot of Chicago products as well—cheeses, local dairy eggs, chicken. We try to be as local as possible with meats, fruits and vegetables but it’s obvious we’re not getting local tomatoes in January.

I need to know everything about the Nutella bar. 
It’s a stand on the first floor and is 100% Nutella items. There’s a fried dough ball with Nutella. There are crepes with Nutella, muffins with Nutella, rustic bread with Nutella.

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