It’s finally here. Eataly—fronted by Mario Batali and Lidia Bastianich, along with Bastianich’s son, Joe, and founder Oscar Farinetti—is a sprawling, 67,000-square-foot ode to Italian cuisine that opens three floors and multiple concepts within the Westfield Century City mall today. Part market, part restaurant, part food hall, part desserterie, part cooking school, part wine shop—whew—it’s an overwhelming experience. If you’re anything like us, when you’re not wandering the floor in awe of the thousands of Italian products, you’ll be wondering how you can stow away and live there, undetected, in your own personal Eataly palace.
Tonight, when the doors open at 6pm, try not to get lost, but do get lost in the spectacular array of olive oils, dried pasta, dry-aged beef and sustainable seafood. “One of the hard sells in all of the Eataly stores is that you can’t have everything you want whenever you want it,” says Batali. “We don’t sell dessert [at the pasta counter] so after you’ve had your antipasto and your pasta, you must go to the gelato place, you must go to the bomboloni place or you must go to the coffee place. Imagine you’re in a little town, not that you’re in a restaurant.”
You can have it all, but you’ll need a little planning to do it, which is why we’ve put together this handy guide. Use it tonight and always, but if you’re heading there for the opening, here’s a tip: get there early—the first 100 visitors receive free mozzarella, if you’re into that sort of thing. (You’re here, so we know you are.)
The first floor
The beginning of your journey: When you enter from the ground floor, you’ll first be treated to a Lavazza cafe, where you’ll find a range of espressos, including affogato, macchiato, and the luxurious espresso Torinese, a blend of espresso and hot chocolate topped with foamed milk and cocoa powder. Be sure to grab one, because you’re going to need the caffeine. As you walk toward the cooking school (more on that shortly), you’ll pass the gelateria on your right, and a reusable-water program on your left, the latter utilizing filtered reusable water to grow plants within the space.
The school: Learn not just how to make fresh pasta but how the shapes interplay with sauces at Eataly’s cooking school perched over Santa Monica Boulevard. Throughout the class as they cook or at the end, student eats the meal to enjoy the fruits of their labor; the school even staffs sommeliers on hand who’ll explain the perfect wine pairings as well, so it feels like more of continuous tasting and learning event than a day in school.
The second floor
The bakery: Eataly’s La Panetteria bakes fresh bread made from local and Italian flour, using what the team deems the best of both worlds. Every loaf cooks fresh daily in a wood-fired oven, some even utilizing a 36-year-old sourdough starter. All bread is made all by hand, whether it’s the more standard ciabatta or a crutsy loaf dyed black with squid ink.
Pizza alla Palla: Stop by this counter for Roman-style pizza whose roots lie not in a pizzeria, but a bakery. Bakers would often test the heat of their oven with a piece of dough, which evolved into the thick, bready crust you can enjoy here today thanks to cold fermentation with high hydration, making for a fluffy and porous interior.
The salad bar: Every time an Eataly opens in a new city, they want to work with local chefs. Here in L.A., they’ll be rotating chefs through the salad bar, starting with Jason Neroni of the Rose Cafe in Venice, followed by Neal Fraser of Downtown’s Redbird.
The produce: Everything displayed winds up in the restaurants’ kitchens the next day, which keeps inventory moving and ensures fresh fruits and vegetables for every made-onsite meal, whether it’s made with tree-ripe plums, sun gold tomatoes, sunchokes, or artichokes from Castroville and Coachella.
The dairy: This is just one of many stations where you can watch the magic happen. Look on as Eataly’s talented team makes fresh mozzarella, ricotta and burrata every day. Behind the scenes, White Moustache Yogurt’s Homa Dashtaki uses California milk to make both sweet and savory yogurt onsite. Pivot to the cheese case, where you can find more than 30 varieties and some of the largest wheels you could ever hope to fit in a grocery tote.
The seafood counter: It’s rare in Italy to buy a fish that’s filleted, so in keeping with tradition, Eataly’s fish selection is almost entirely whole, though the fishmonger will fillet them for you. “The idea behind selling a fish whole is that we know that it’s one less set of hands that have touched it since it came out of the sea,” says Batali. Eataly partners with Dock to Dish, an organization that works with sustainable harvesters to source fish all within 24 to 48 hours, from catch to arriving in the market. It also brings in fish beyond the most popular species—salmon, cod, branzino, tuna—to help those species’ longevity.
The butcher shop: “As much as this looks and tastes and feels like a giant restaurant, the fundamental business behind this store is the retail concept; we are not selling you cooked food,” says Batali. “We are selling you on the idea that you want to cook at home. The market is truly what really goes on here.” Eataly works with local producers, especially in its meat case, and promises no hormones across the board here. This means you’ll find enormous shanks, rack of lamb, well-marbled pork, tender fillets and an impressive dry-aged-beef case, and much of it is sourced from California.
La Piazza: As you move toward the restaurants—we’ll get to those in a minute—you’ll find yourself in front of the piazza, a marketplace-inspired food stall offering up lasagna and other fresh-from-the-oven prepared foods, as well as a specialty unfamiliar to most: panigacci bread, cousin to testaroli. Cooked on clay tiles that run through an oven and bake and steam on the tiles’ residual heat, panigacci is a flat and crisp bread that peels off the tile, then gets drizzled with olive oil and cheese, or transforms into a small panino filled with prosciutto, eggplant and mozzarella, or any other combo. “Panigacci is here and only here,” says Batali, who hopes to educate through Eataly’s offerings. “This is what Eataly is all about: learning, and about delicious pleasure.”
The restaurants: “We have partnerships around the country with different restaurateurs, and they’re generally perceived as the best restaurateurs in town,” says Batali. “In Los Angeles, that’s no exception.”
One such partnership helped build the new Eataly’s fish restaurant, Il Pesce Cucina, thanks to Providence and Connie & Ted’s Michael Cimarusti and his partner, Donato Poto (who both just so happened to launch yet another restaurant earlier this week). They’ll be bringing simple, fresh seafood dishes to the bright and white-tiled corner of the second floor. “What I’m going to do here is just keep it simple,” says Cimarusti. “I mean, I am Italian.”
Adjacent is Rossopomodoro, an authentic Neapolitan pizzeria that can cook pies in 90 seconds. Don’t skip the pasta restaurant, La Pizza & La Pasta, where you’ll find house-made noodles served lightly sauced and al dente, in true Italian fashion. If you’re looking for pasta to take home, this extruded-through-bronze-dye specimen can also be purchased onsite in the marketplace.
The wine shop: Eataly’s wine selection is a stunner of a collection, focusing on regionality, in order to pair with corresponding products and cuisine found throughout Eataly. Prepare to be overwhelmed by roughly 3,000 labels, with nearly 200 of them from California. It is Eataly’s largest wine store in the U.S., and marks the first time the company will carry American wines.
The desserterie: Finish your meal (or start with something sweet) at La Pasticceria, where you’ll find fresh Italian pastries such as a heavenly tiramisu, then round the corner for a separate kiosk devoted entirely to Venchi chocolates made using traditional Italian chocolate recipes. Finish with another espresso, this time from Caffe Vergnano.
The market: You heard Batali at the meat counter: Eataly’s goal isn’t just to feed you immediately, but to inspire you to go home and cook. That’s never more apparent than in the marketplace, where thousands of Italian dried and jarred goods meet small-batch California producers, whether you’re looking for egg pasta, six types of semolina flour or a spicy mustard made here in town. There’s even olive oil sold in bulk, a first for all Eatalys.
The third floor
This is a bit of a question mark, as the team is relatively tight-lipped about the third-floor restaurant, which has yet to be named. What we do know is that there will be outdoor seating, and that it will be similar in concept to one of the restaurants in Boston’s Eataly. We’d put our money on it being similar to Terra, Boston’s third-floor, earth-and-fire-inspired concept where meals are cooked over open flame. But that’s just our guess.
The ratio: A number of things are different about L.A.’s Eataly compared to other locations, including its sourcing. Whereas only about 20 percent of product is sourced locally for the New York location, and about 15 percent in the other American cities, here in California, you can expect roughly 50 percent of the produce to come from our own region. “There’s an incredible difference,” says founder Oscar Farinetti. “They tell me that California people are the best who know the food, to know the agriculture, and we present the real Italy. Our range of product is 50 percent excellent that is coming from Italy. The other food I buy here, and it is very, very easy to buy fantastic produce in California: the best tomatoes, fantastic meat, incredible fish, flour—I am very happy.”
The seating: While you’ll find between 250 and 300 seats indoors, you’ll find roughly 120 on the patio—the first-ever outdoor seating at a U.S. Eataly.
It is, in essence, a wonderland. If you need us, you won’t know where to find us, because we’ll be hiding in a corner somewhere in the hopes that we can find some crevice to call home. Wish us luck.
Eataly is now open, located at 10250 Santa Monica Boulevard in Century City at the Westfield Shopping Center. Eataly is open from 8am to 11pm daily, downstairs; the market opens at 9am, and restaurants open around 11am.