Photo Credits: Eater Chicago
This past week’s behemoth opening of Eataly Chicago, Streeterville’s newest capital for gourmet culinary endeavors, is on another level, and the opening reestablishes where our fine city resides in the conversation on top American food cities. The opening also says a lot about how we look at and treat our food, our community and where the future of food is headed not only here but in every major city across the country. Eataly gives a glimpse into the future of what American food could (and should?) be, and with its opening here in Chicago, the future is now.
Mario Batali and his cast of constituents have tipped the scales and taken Eataly to a place even they’ve never been before with their Chicago flagship location eclipsing their only other shop on American soil (in New York) in both size and money invested. As soon as you step off of Ohio Street and into the friendly confines of Eataly, you will feel the food point, turning and tipping simultaneously. You will feel something you’ve never felt at any restaurant, any grocery store, any specialty shop. You will feel as though you’ve been whisked away to actual Italy. You will feel special, but most importantly, you will feel like eating!
Your senses will be overloaded by the sights of a full-on brewery, scents of fresh baked bread, baked in a bad-ass wood-burning oven, sounds of the hustle and bustle of a city desperate to grow out of the shadow of more “renowned” ones around the world and tastes of everything from Nutella crepes and gelato to freshly-made Mozzarella and pasta. We could probably do without the silly lobsters in that confined tank though, couldn’t we, Mario?
Prepare your senses, prepare your day and prepare your accounts (both financial and social media), because Eataly is a day trip worth documenting, a trip worth every penny. Plain, simple, and psychedelically speaking: Eataly is a trip.
“Eataly is about simple food,” Batali told the Chicago food media frenzy Monday. “It’s about trying to remove the obstacles of the American home cook to make something as simple as the Italian food culture.”
Freshness, Class, and The European Way
Much of what Eataly does could easily become misconstrued as overabundance and overindulgence and a slap in the face to the poverty-stricken population, but upon closer inspection, the fact that every little nook and cranny of the two story shopping center operates as an independent entity of itself lends itself to a new idea of how businesses can be run (Think reeaaallly high class food court or indoor version of an outdoor European market). Plus, through information gathered from Eataly’s friendly staff, they’re donating unused goods around the city. Bonus.
Those of us who care about how we spend our years here on earth, those of us who care about what we put into our earthly bodies, those of us aware enough and able to distinguish between what’s worth a couple extra dollars and cents for quality nourishment will appreciate and frequent somewhere like Eataly, if only to massage our European mentality in the process. But as Nelson Mandela said, “like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made, and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.” Food for thought…
Eataly Chicago has been dedicated to the world-famous author for not only his Chicago (Oak Park) roots but also his astute involvement with and penchant for Italian culture, not to mention his numerous lengthy treks to Italy for business and pleasure…and military duty. From Eataly’s website:
“We have dedicated Eataly Chicago to Ernest Miller Hemingway.
Ernest M. Hemingway was born and raised just outside Chicago, in Oak Park, Illinois. We, at Eataly, have chosen to dedicate our new store to your famous fellow Chicagoan, a Nobel laureate and one of the most important writers of his century. Between 1918 and 1954, Hemingway spent a considerable amount of time in Italy, particularly in the region of Veneto. Hemingway loved Italy for its beauty and specifically for its food and wine (just as we do). On our second floor, among our beautiful food and wine, you will find a collection of images portraying Hemingway during his time spent in Italy…we like to think he would be happy here.”
I can’t see who wouldn’t be happy here.
Place to Be
During the first week of business since the grand opening, Chicago’s finest have made their way to check out what all the hubbub is about, and the hubbub is more than warranted, as we are in the midst of a turning point in Chicagoan and American cuisine. Eataly can serve as a model for future culinary undertakings the country over, couldn’t it? It seems we could learn a lot from European culture, and it could very well begin with the food we eat, how we shop for it and how we prepare ourselves for preparing it. Once our bellies are full, we can discuss all the other things we could learn from European culture. Baby steps…