File this one under confused. On paper, the concept behind this culinary mega-market is brilliant: Authentic Italian goods, a large assortment of fruits and vegetables, pastas, and wines, and 23 eateries all conveniently located under one roof. In actuality, however, Eataly comes off as a bit excessive – and chaotic.
In a city known for its gastronomic gurus, is a place like this even necessary? Italian cuisine is kind of our thing and you won’t find anything offered here to rival the selection found at the places you already love. The pizza? Meh. Spacca Napoli’s a better choice. The pasta? Meh again. I actually prefer Bacino’s in La Grange.
Specifically looking for 9 ounces of a certain prosciutto? Swim your way through an infestation of locals and tourists (who are mostly browsing aimlessly), pass through the marketplace, up the stairs, through the wines and past three restaurants, until you finally reach the deli a few hours later (sarcasm). You could’ve just went to Caputo’s or Whole Foods. But whatever.
Come without a shopping list, without a purpose, without a pressing appointment immediately following your visit and the concept may win you over. There’s so much life happening around you here, so much laughter. While Eataly’s not what I expected, it’s probably one of the best places to grab a drink in River North and definitely the best for flights of wine. In fact, it’s now one of my favorite happy hour haunts.