The place was beautiful, although making sense of the plethora of Italian products available wasn't always easy; the staff wasn't rude, but they didn't seem in any hurry to help, either. The second floor was designed to create the ambience of an Italian square, a place where friends and family might gather for a quick bite and a glass of wine, and of course, conversation, before taking care of some quick errands in the surrounding markets.
We headed out to walk off the lethargy of too much good food and see the world according to Italian entrepreneur Oscar Farinetti (all 21 departments), the brainchild behind Eataly.
The Bottom Line on Chicago's Eataly:
Verdict: If Italy isn't in your travel plans yet, try visiting Chicago's Eataly for a taste of Mediterranean; it's the next best thing to the real deal. The only other Eataly in the States is in New York City.
If cooking is your thing, you'll love Eataly. Maybe you'll know what type of olive oil or tomato paste or pasta to buy, too. Ask for help decifering the labels. We saw plenty of staff, but few seemed willing to make the first move when it came to assisting the customer. Cooking classes are available for those really serious about Italian cuisine.
How to Get There: From Chicago's Loop, take Lower Wacker Drive north to Lower Michigan Avenue. Turn left onto Lower Michigan Avenue. Take Michigan Avenue to East Grand Avenue; turn left. Follow East Grant to North Wabash; turn right onto North Wabash, then take the first right onto East Ohio Street. Destination will be on the right, at 43 East Ohio Street.
Insider Information: Don't do as I do (we visited on a Saturday); do as I say. I'd recommend arriving mid-morning on a weekday when Chicago's worker bees (the ones looking for a cappuccino before heading to the office) will have cleared out.
Be sure to pick up a map from guest services on the first floor and leisurely make your way around Eataly at least once or twice to get the lay of the land. Parking, just west of Eataly, will run you $20 for four hours, although you can cut that expense in half with a $20 purchase at Eataly; not much of a challenge given their hefty prices.
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