If you have never been to Italy or spent time in open-air markets, then Eataly’s endless sprawl of Italian brands, products, and services under one roof will doubtless seem utterly convenient. And normal.
And it is, I suppose, in the way that Disneyland’s transitions between “countries” is a normal way to experience global travel and culture. Everywhere there are noodle-shaped guides and placards to tell you how to appreciate the Italian bounty. If you don’t know how to cook, buy, or enjoy something, there are concierges, cheese mongers, butchers, and bakers that can explain. No need to wonder. Or use your imagination.
Getting something to eat is a bigger adventure. The aisles of shopping opportunities and seating for restaurants are packed so together tightly, it’s hard to tell if they were ever meant to be apart. If Mr. Toad had the same lines as any of the in-store restaurants, then that attraction would never have folded. Perhaps his “wild ride” should have ended with bakery samples instead of the usual gift shop?
If I could work past the sensory overload and crowds of people, I could almost say that I would enjoy the odd hour or two at Eataly. My lunch at La Birreria, when it finally arrived, was quite tasty and in keeping with downtown lunch prices. I enjoyed the food, but I wanted a semblance of privacy while I dined. I hated being a part of the attraction.
I can’t ignore the hard sell of this prepackaged Italian experience, though clearly I am not the target customer. And that’s okay. There are many other ways to get a taste of Italy in Chicago. Most of them don’t involve lines. If you prefer to get your Italian shopping, dining, and instruction in one spot, then Buon Appetito! The all-in-one experience awaits you…
43 East Ohio Street