Emerging Brands

Why Eataly Chicago is a must-see

Eataly Chicago closed its doors for a day just a week after opening in December. Why? Not even the operators foresaw how popular it would be.

“It’s a bigger, more evolved Eataly than New York has,” says operating partner Joe Bastianich, referring to the concept’s first U.S. unit. “Everything we could have done different in New York, we’ve done it here. We had a chance to do it right in more square footage with more time and more money.” It’s 30 percent more space, to be exact. With the extra room came new concepts tailored to the Chicago market. Il Fritto, for example, serves Italian fried foods from olives to anchovies, playing on the town’s love of comfort food. And what worked in New York City—a white tablecloth steakhouse—has been reinterpreted for the Midwestern audience. Chicago’s low-key version, La Carne, is a less expensive, meat-centric venue. There’s still an option for those in pursuit of high-end dining, though. Reservations are hard to come by at Baffo (a concept in the spirit of partner Mario Batali’s Babbo restaurant in New York City), offering the “full Eatalian dining experience.” Other must-scout spots within Eataly Chicago: a Nutella bar, a soft-serve gelato bar and a vegetable butcher who will clean and cut house-purchased vegetables free of charge. 

4 more facts about Eataly Chicago

1. That’s (culinary) entertainment!
Visitors can watch pasta being rolled or mozzarella being stretched and balled. Those same items, available for purchase, are used at the many eateries. “We make what we eat and we eat what we make,” says partner Mario Batali (right).

2. It’s cheaper here.
While New York City’s Eataly is notoriously expensive, the owners knew those same prices wouldn’t fly here. Batali goes so far as to guarantee that the Chicago site “is not the most expensive grocery store in town.”

3. Retail is taken up a notch.
The concept strives to “remove the obstacles for the home cook.” When guests try a dish at one of the eateries, they can then buy the ingredients from the grocery stands to recreate the meal at home.

4. Wine sales flow more easily.
Buying wine to take home is easier at Eataly’s Il Vino (with its more than 1,000 bottles). While New York City’s grocers can’t sell wine to consumers directly, Chicagoans don’t face that same regulatory challenge. 

Members help make our journalism possible. Become a Restaurant Business member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.


Exclusive Content


Struggling I Heart Mac and Cheese franchisees push back against their franchisor

Operators say most of them aren't making money and want a break on their royalties. But they also complain about receiving expired cheese from closed stores. "Don't send us moldy product."


In California, jobs are up, but traffic is down

The Bottom Line: Limited-service restaurants have not cut jobs in California, despite the $20 fast-food wage. But that doesn't mean it hasn't had an impact.


First-party catering emerges as a new frontier for restaurant tech

Tech Check: As catering booms, more tech companies are offering restaurants the tools to do it themselves.


More from our partners