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Eating your way through Eataly

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Eataly Chicago

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There has been a lot of buzz in Chicago about a new food paradise in town. There has been so much buzz during their first week since their opening day that they had to shut down for one day on December 9th so they can "refuel" because of the tremendous success. Eataly Chicago is the second store in the Eataly chain to open in the United States. The original store in North America is located in New York City with other stores located in Italy, Turkey, and Japan.

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When I went to Eataly Chicago recently, I was completely amazed and blown away with how the store was set up. The store is truly "Italian food heaven" with the two-levels of Italian food items in the grocery. As you walk into the store, you enter the fresh produce section where they carry regional grown fruits and vegetables as well as some unique items that are hard to find. According to Eataly Chicago's website, the produce department has only vegetable butcher who will cut up your purchases free of charge. Now that's service!

The store was still a bit crowded when I went recently especially with the holiday shopping season just winding down. It is important to have a lot of patience and not be in a hurry when wandering through Eataly Chicago. Be sure to take your time to enjoy the sites within the store. I found there are several highlights during my recent visit that I think are worth noting for your first visit to Eataly Chicago.

Sit-down restaurants galore

Eataly Chicago has several sit-down restaurants within both floors of the store. On the first floor, there is a Panini stand where you can order a panini sandwich either to eat at the store or take it go. All of their sandwiches are made with their own rustic bread made on the second floor of the store. There is also a Nutella stand where you can have several different treats made with Nutella. It would make any super fan of Nutella swoon.

On the second floor, there are several different restaurants with sit-down seating. Each restaurants have a different culinary focus ranging from vegetarian to rotisserie to seafood dishes. There is also a restaurant if you are really craving fresh pizza from the oven or the freshest pasta with a glass of Italian wine. The only difference between the Eataly location here in Chicago versus in New York City is that all of the seating is first come first served. Be prepared to wait for a table, but it will be well worth the wait.

If you do not want to wait seating, Eataly Chicago just opened up a new sit-down restaurant located on the Grand Avenue side of the store named Baffo meaning "little mustache" in Italian. The dining area is more formal than in the store and offer only a dinner menu at this time. Baffo does take reservations for parties up to six people either by phone or using their website. Their passion for food is shown in the menu ranging to antipasti to home-style Italian dinners. They are setting up for a New Year's Eve tasting menu for those who want to have an Eataly experience on New Year's Eve.

You can have your Tirimisu and eat it too.

If you are someone like me with gluten allergies, you can rejoice at Eataly. Eataly's Executive Pastry Chef, Luca Montersino, completely amazed me with the large selection of sweets. When I go into a conventional bakery, I usually only find one or two desserts that I purchase. At Eataly Chicago, I found at least five or six at the pastry counter and another three more at the Illy coffee counter. Montersino had two different versions of Tirimiso available to purchase, which were both gluten-free. I purchased one of them and loved how it tasted just as delicious as the conventional version. It was wonderful to enjoy without worrying about what it is made out of.

Montersino serves a lot of the pastries at Eataly with a health-conscious focus in mind. It is good to know that the products sold at the pastry counter come with intention of making them healthy for the consumer. I also saw one or two pastries for those who are on sugar-restricted diets because of diabetes or other health conditions. It makes me feel good to buy a product where there is love and thoughtfulness that goes behind it.

Satisfy your gelato fix two ways.

One thing that you will find at Eataly Chicago is that you will definitely get your gelato fix. In fact, you will be able to satisfy your fix between two different version of gelato. You can purchase gelato in the traditional fashion. You are get You can also purchase gelato in the form of soft serve.

Yes, you read that right. You can get gelato - like regular ice cream - in the form of rich and creamy soft serve at Eataly Chicago. According to the Eataly Chicago webpage, they want to be innovative while maintain a simplistic attitude by offering several different flavors of gelato in the form of soft serve. I had no idea that one could make soft serve gelato, but I am believer now.

Overall, Eataly Chicago is definitely a place that needs to be on your list of places to go when you visit Chicago. It is a wonderful place to eat and drink your way around the store. Eataly Chicago is a definite highlight to any foodie or health conscious person on your list.

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