RIVER NORTH — Eataly Chicago will open in late November with 63,000 square feet of restaurants, cooking instruction hubs and grocery store sections stocked with locally sourced goods, officials said.
West Loop Salumi's cured meats will have a featured spot inside the monolith building at 43 E. Ohio St. that once housed ESPN Zone. So will cheeses from Downstate Champaign's Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery and Ludwig Farmstead and Creamery in nearby Fithian, Ill.
Chicago's Eataly outpost will be the biggest of the franchise, which has sites in New York, Italy and Japan. Spokesman Dino Borri said that was no accident.
"Chicago is the most important city in the center of the United States," Borri said. "It's already a really important foodie city. The quality of the food there is amazing."
The Eataly concept values extremes, and specificity. Borri noted that the Eataly Chicago pasta collection will feature "over 200 shapes," many of which will be served in Eataly's interior restaurants.
The experience is modeled after the open-air Campo de Fiori market in Rome.
"Sometimes you go to the restaurant, and you taste something, and you say 'Oh my God, this is so good, I would like to buy it.' Sometimes you ask the chef, 'Where is this from?' and he'll say 'Oh the fish market down the street," Borri said.
"Here, you say, 'Oh, this pasta is so good, where can I buy [it]?' and they say 'Two feet over there,'" he said. "This is the beauty of our store."
In addition to curating a selection of locally sourced ingredients, Borri said Eataly Chicago will also import lots of hard-to-find products from Italy and elsewhere.
"I really think in Chicago, a store like ours will be a destination for the daily shopping of the Chicago people," Borri said. "We have some products that nobody sells right now."
Restaurants and "stations" inside will include "a new meat restaurant that we don't have yet in New York," and a "fried station, Frito, where it's all fried stuff that is really typical in South Italia, like fish fry," Borri said.
In the name of variety, many items will be available on a rotating schedule. The by-the-glass wine selection of 50 to 60 wines will change weekly, Borri said. Classes and guest lectures with "wine experts, beer experts, pasta experts" will "teach people about the history of the products, the quality of the products, when the producers are in town," and demonstrate recipes assembled entirely from Eataly's stock.
Celebrity chef Mario Batali, who co-owns the New York and Chicago Eatalys, said at a Chicago Ideas Week event that the two-story food destination will open Nov. 22 or 29, Crain's reported.