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Mario Batali Ratchets The Hype For Eataly Chicago

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Nov 26, 2013 8:40PM

“Eataly is about simple food,” Mario Batali said to a horde of Chicago food media Monday. “it’s about trying to remove the obstacles of the American home cook to make something as simple as the Italian food culture.”

Batali is in Chicago with his longtime business partners Lidia and Joe Bastianich to ramp up the hype for the Dec. 2 opening of Eataly Chicago. Batali—who seemed overwhelmed at times at the size of the store—was clearly aiming for the no-nonsense appetites Chicagoans are noted for having.

“Although there are restaurants here, this is essentially a giant bar that’s trying to help you have an extra drink so that you may shop better and think about your life,” Batali added.

There’s a lot of space to think about your life, shop and drink at Eataly Chicago. Located in the former ESPN Zone space on Huron and Rush, the two-floor, 63,000 square foot space contains 30 percent more space than Eataly’s New York City location, 23 different dining options and, at a cost of $28 million to build, is set in an area of the city intended to cater to professionals on the go, tourists and the general curious.

Eataly Chicago isn’t as elegant as its Manhattan counterpart and the added square footage will go a long way toward alleviating the sardine can feeling visiting Eataly NYC. From what I spied Monday, Eataly Chicago is all about pizazz and spectacle which is exactly as it should be given its Streeterville location.

Some of the food stands inside Eataly Chicago include a gelato stand, a wood-fired pizza stand, sections for salumi, fresh seafood, cheeses and a fry station, a wine bar with kegged Italian varietals, a bread shop, a brewpub, a vegetarian dining option and even fine-dining coming to the store later in December. Cooking classes will also be offered.

Eataly Chicago is making an effort to stock Midwestern foodstuffs. Their meats and salumi, for example, will be sourced from the red-hot West Loop Salumi, Iowa’s La Quercia and Balzano in Milwaukee. In another local nod, Eataly Chicago is dedicated to Ernest Hemingway, who spent a considerable amount of his travels in the Veneto region of Italy and noted it for its food and wine. The second floor of the store features a collection of images showing Hemingway during his time in Italy.