RIVER NORTH — You can already eat, drink and shop at River North's Italian food mecca Eataly. Now you can cook a full meal in-house, too.
The 63,000-square-foot food hub recently finished construction on the second-floor cooking school, which features a full-size open kitchen and enough two-person tables to seat about 50 students.
La Scuola di Eataly Chicago's inaugural class was taught Wednesday by the school's dean, chef and restaurateur Lidia Bastianich.
"Chicago has been a great supporter of Eataly, and we are so happy to be here," Bastianich said, joking about the opening week when the city "ate us out of house and home," forcing the store to close to restock.
Future classes will be taught by Eataly's in-house experts — like a mozzarella-making class March 26 led by the grocery store's full-time mozzarella puller — though there will be room for guest chefs and specialists as well, according to Emily Ripp, director of education and events at the cooking school.
The school plans to offer several tracks of classes: Chef's Kitchen courses focus on specific dishes and technique, Food and Language courses study specific regions of Italy, Artisanal Product Spotlights will highlight high-end ingredients available in the store and how to cook with them, and Apertivo classes focus on classic and new cocktails.
Most cost $75-$95 per person, though some classes, like walking tours of the store, can cost as little as $35. Courses are scheduled almost every day and all require advance registration online.
Chef's Table events, like the Dogfish Head-centric dinner scheduled for April 1, are interactive, restaurant-style meals, priced around $110 per person.
The lessons are designed for audiences with a diverse mix of skill levels, Ripp said.
"We have people who don't know how to boil a pot of pasta water, and we have people who are amateur chefs coming to learn new recipes. So there's a large range in the classes," said Ripp, who previously ran the school at the Eataly outpost in New York.
Since the classes are question-driven, "guests can craft it in their own way," she said. "If they have a lot of questions, [instructors] will tailor it to make it a really informative class. If they're just looking for an excuse to sit back and let somebody else do the cooking for that evening, then they can just observe the process while sampling each dish along the way."
The space can also be rented out for private events and conferences. A retractable partition splits the room in two, dividing the dining area and closing off the open kitchen.