Eataly, an Italian Food Lovers Paradise. Chicago, IL

Do you believe in the afterlife? Well, if you are a fan of food from the boot country, and you happen upon Chicago’s Eataly, a mega market and Italian eatery, you may think you have slipped on a Pannetone, died and gone to foodie heaven…

I got the chance to visit the market, mega food emporium one freezing Chicago afternoon, just 5 weeks after their December 2nd, grand opening downtown.

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They had over 120,000 visitors during their first week and had to actually close a full day to restock.

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Though foodies and fans of the original NY location have had this place on their radar for a while, surprisingly, many of my local pal’s who reside in the Chi hadn’t yet heard about it. Most of my friends who had heard of it thought it was simply another Italian restaurant by Mario Batali. Well, actually, there’s a lot more to it than that. If you’ve never been, let me paint you the picture.

You walk in, and the first thing you see are little carts of fresh produce…

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To your right, there’s a Nutella bar, Lavazza coffee shoppe, a gelato bar. All sorts of products (including various Mario Batali merch) sweets and kitchen gadgets make up the bottom floor.

Smack dab in the middle are the escalators stairways to heaven, where you can sip wine as you shop or relax with some casual conversation with friends as you grab some grub at one of their many restaurants upstairs…

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Eataly is not only a shopping market for Italian goods; charcuterie, cheeses, freshly baked breads, pastas meats and seafood, it is also a centre for various sit-down restaurants and wine bars. This Eataly location even has their own artisanal craft brew pub and brewery!

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They also feature a mozzarella “lab” where you can watch the cheesy goodness being made fresh right before your eyes. My friend’s and I, oo’ed and aaa’ed as we took pictures at the cheese maker behind the tall glass window. We all got a feeling, much like being at the zoo… watching something magical unfold before your eyes. It was almost scandalous.

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I purchased some fig bread from their bakery, some hazelnut spread (though not Nutella), goat cheese, prosciutto and a black rice for dinner later on…

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Then we headed to the gelato bar for some tiramisu ice cream, drinking chocolate (yum!) from the Lavazza bar and an espresso con panna (espresso with whip cream!).

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It’s pretty much like the NYC location, although being that it’s got two levels, it’s a bit bigger. Venture over for a mid-day outing, special occasion or just for a tasty coffee break wine break while shopping downtown.

And make sure you add it to your Chicago itinerary of places To-Go when you’re visiting the Windy City. Good luck trying not to buy anything!

BYB Tip: Eataly validates at the 10 E. Grand Parking structure. 1 Hour Free or 2-3 Hours ($10bucks) with a $20 purchase.

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