Those clever people at Eataly have done it again, this time in Chicago.

Eataly Turin produce section with the salad bar adjacent to the produce display

Eataly Turin produce section with the salad bar adjacent to the produce display

I first discovered the concept when H and I were doing a case study for M&S on the original Turin site. The old vermouth factory adjacent to the building that houses the Salone del Gusto was a vast space housing all the necessary zones to showcase the best of the slow food movement. Founder Carlo Petrini of the Slow Food Movement created Eataly with local businessman Oscar Farinetti as a place that would support the sale of all the local slow food producers but in a more commercial environment.

The unique element of the concept was combining the ability to buy the product there to take home or to have a massive team of chefs on hand who were creating dishes to eat in. This juxtaposition of the raw material and the finished product was handled with inimitable Italian style so that the whole experience was one of food discovery, showcasing the best producers and their wares.

To be fair, not everything was perfect and during the morning and afternoon, the somewhat empty space was cold and aloof in places just feeling unconnected but when the Italians came in for lunch or dinner, the place transformed into one which was vibrant and inspiring.

Seasonal produce in the New York shop

Seasonal produce in the New York shop

Enter Mario Batali and the Bastianich crew in the US. In partnering with these guys, the Eataly concept got a new lease of life translating the principles into a central New York hub which addressed the coldness and vast space by the very fact it was centrally located in the Flat Iron district. What the Americans did was add in a pace that simply didn’t exist in Italy. From morning to night, this place is packed. There is a constant buzz around each area that is much more sporadic in Italy. The preparation, cooking and eating in seems to have a new lease of life either at the stand up tables central to the deli area, or alternatively in the well regarded restaurant and everything in between.

New Yorkers stand and snack in the deli zone

New Yorkers stand and snack in the deli zone

Making fresh pasta in store

Making fresh pasta in store

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Design wise, there are things I would do differently, but you really can’t criticise. Everywhere you turn, there are people making products in front of you and the displays are inviting and abundant. It was inevitable that this formula would go further and further, and a couple of weeks ago Chicago opened. Sited on two floors, this is the next evolution and one that is going from strength the strength. There is a new nutella bar to indulge in and a nice balance of space with a central atrium which gives it more breathing space than NYC.

Eataly chicago

In its first week, Eataly Chicago was reported to have welcomed 120,000 visitors and 80,000 diners. In fact, the launch week was so outstanding that they had to close for a day in order to restore themselves into serviceable order. How wonderful. I just love the open, honest approach and the genuine appreciation expressed in the latter posted on their website:

“Dear Chicago,

What a week! We have never felt more welcomed! More than 120,000 visited our new location, more than 80,000 dined with us at our restaurants and more than 30,000 Chicagoans purchased our food and enjoyed cooking it at home. Never, ever has another Eataly been as successful as our new outpost in Chicago…therefore we say: THANK YOU, CHICAGO!

You have understood and grasped our “experiential” concept and our love for all things Italian and local, along with our priority for high quality food, and passion for education.

Because of this deep understanding of our manifesto and what we believe in, we have decided to close the store on Monday, December 9th, in order to preserve our standards of quality and service. We want to pay back your love and passion for Eataly Chicago by providing you the best food and the best service.

See you all bright and early on Tuesday at 8AM at our Caffe Lavazza!

Thanks again Chicago,

The Eataly Team”

Good luck Eataly Chicago. Congratulations and I can’t wait to see the first UK outpost which is rumoured to be in the making as I type.

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