RIVER NORTH — It's no secret that American author and journalist Ernest Hemingway loved to eat and drink.
The team behind Eataly Chicago says Italian food and wine was among his favorite cuisines, so on Friday they're celebrating his July 21 birthday with multiple events, including free cake for all shoppers at 4 p.m.
The 110-pound cake was custom made for the occasion by Eataly New York's pastry chef, who's flying out to cut the cake Friday in the grocery store's second floor Piazza standing restaurant.
Lizzie Schiffman explains why Ernest Hemingway and Eataly go so well together:
The cake is Hemingway-themed, and will likely feature elaborate representations of some of the author's works, according to Eataly Chicago's general manager Raffaele Piarulli.
But Piarulli says he's just guessing, because pastry chef Katia Delogu is keeping the cake top secret.
"It's a mystery cake," he said. "It will be Hemingway-inspired. I asked if she could tell me something about it, or show me a picture, and she refused.
"We hope there will be enough cake for everybody. Actually, we hope there won't be — that we'll have so many people attending we'll run out."
Piarulli said the team wanted to go all out to celebrate, since the River North grocery store and restaurant complex is "dedicated" to Hemingway. Each of the chain's 16 locations is themed around a person, place or or concept.
Although the Oak Park native is normally more closely associated with Spain, his ties to Chicago and love of Italy made him a natural choice to represent the store, the team said when Eataly opened last fall.
"Between 1918 and 1954, Hemingway spent a considerable amount of time in Italy, particularly in the region of Veneto," Eataly's team explained in a release while the store was in development.
"Hemingway loved Italy for its beauty and specifically for its food and wine, just as we do ... We like to think he would be happy here."
Images of Hemingway decorate the walls of the second floor Piazza, modeled after an Italian square, where shoppers are encouraged to sample wines, meats and cheeses.
To continue the celebration, Eataly will also host a Hemingway-inspired dinner in its La Scuola cooking school from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Friday. The Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park is co-hosting the event and helped design the menu.
Excetpts from his works will be read as part of the cooking demonstration and during dinner. Hemingway, born in 1899, would have turned 115 this past Monday.
Tickets to the four-course meal inspired by recipes featured in the Hemingway Cookbook cost $95 per person and are available in advance online.
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