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Eataly Chicago Is Closing Its Fine-Dining Wing, Baffo

By Stephen Gossett in Food on May 18, 2016 7:15PM

Food at Baffo, c/o Eataly

The near North Side Italian-food hydra Eataly Chicago announced plans Tuesday to close its upscale Baffo restaurant. May 29 will be the last day to visit the shuttering fine-dining wing.

"Since opening in Chicago, we have taken much pride in constantly changing our store based on guest feedback and being honest regarding the decisions we make as a company," said Cristina Villa, Eataly public relations manager, in a statement quoted in Eater.

Baffo earned predominantly mixed notices during its two-and-half-year run. The Reader criticized unduly high prices and overly familiar dishes, while Serious Eats proclaimed the pasta "always fascinating and occasionally astonishing" and the Tribune awarded the restaurant three stars. (Even the positive reviews, however, seemed to always concede a degree of sticker shock.)

Following the closing announcement, Tribune food critic Phil Vettel pointed out perhaps Baffo's central irony: "In a way, Eataly was Baffo's worst enemy, offering high-quality, delicious food without Baffo's formality or premium pricing.” The restaurant also underwent renovations nine months into its lifespan, but the cozier, more traditional facelift ultimately proved unsuccessful as well. The closure is arguably representative of a supposed creeping agnosticism toward fine dining in general.

Eataly Chicago opened in late 2013 under the co-ownership of Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich and Lidia Bastianich. It will not operate the soon-to-be-vacated space after Baffo exits, according to the report. Chicagoist has reached out to Macerich Co., the landlord that controls the property, about possible future tenants, and will update as information becomes available. As for Eataly, expect more movement soon. Representatives promise “new dining concepts, menus, and design elements over the upcoming months,” according to Eater.

Update, 4:30 p.m. A rep for Eataly told Chicagoist via email that there are no plans to open a new fine-dining restaurant in the Chicago Eataly. She also explained the decision to close Baffo a bit further, writing:

In many other Eatalys around the world we feature more "enclosed" restaurants at a higher price point within Eataly stores (Manzo in New York for instance is a good example of the success of this format.) We believe Baffo's location was the real drawback: the clean cut separation from the rest of Eataly somehow penalized the restaurant. We've listened to our customers and we've realized that they come to Eataly to experience Eataly in its entirety. And Baffo wasn't part of that for logistical reasons unfortunately.