When many Torontonians visit New York, a visit to Eataly is of a rite of passage. The Flatiron District outpost of the authentic Italian marketplace beckons with, well, just about everything. Drifting through its aisles you’re bound to encounter hunks of fresh mozza, Italian cookbooks, and rooftop vino. This is a place that let’s you shop, learn something, and take a minute to unwind. Fortunately, Toronto now has its very own iteration.
Eataly is hard to miss. Sitting at the intersection of Bay and Bloor Streets in Toronto’s Yorkville neighbourhood, the chain is the centerpiece of the freshly renovated Manulife Centre. Spread over a sprawling 50,000 square feet and three floors, Eataly is a true behemoth. Can one place be everything to everyone? While it’s hard to sate the needs of all, Eataly is putting up a proper fight. A grocery store, café, three (but soon four) restaurants, a school, bakery, and one brewery later, most of the boxes have been checked off.
So why Toronto? “Toronto has a tremendous Italian population, a strong food culture and people that appreciate Italian culture—and the Eataly brand name is very well known here,” says Tony Grossi, President of Wittington Properties, which helped bring the brand across the border. With such an incredible space at Eataly’s disposal, opening shop was a no brainer.
There’s plenty that dazzles. Eataly invites you into its cavernous space, undoubtedly with the intent that you’ll get lost in the maze-like environment. With luck, customers will find themselves picking up some marinara sauce, a swirl of fresh tagliatelle, and EVOO; grabbing a slice of pizza; and scarfing down a made-to-order cannoli (or two, let’s be honest). Not only does Eataly Toronto carry over 1,000 Italian products that until now were ne’er before seen in Canada, but they’re also spotlighting gourmet brands from this side of the ocean.
Nicola Farinetti, CEO of Eataly North America, is confident he speaks (in a deep Italian accent) to what the place is all about. “We want the food to be fair,” Farinetti says. “We want the food to be fair to the environment, to the farmers, and to the workers.” The other part of the Eataly equation is simplicity—letting the best ingredients shine without any surrounding fuss.
At the pasta and pizzeria restaurant, La Pizza & La Pasta, blistered Neapolitan pies emerge after 90 seconds inside gilded wood-fired ovens. Two other kinds of pizza are on offer at Eataly: hearty Roman-style and a lesser-known variety from Turin, which is pan-fried. Lovers of pasta can twirl strands of spaghetti festooned with pomodoro. There’s also a fresh pasta bar, for those who’d rather get their pappardelle fix . “To all my Italian friends I always say, ‘at Eataly we have the second best pasta in the world because we all know that the first one is your mom’s’,” Farinetti quips.
But there’s more! At the bakery, rustic loaves of bread are baked 24-7, salumi can be procured at the meat counter, and there’s a fishmonger—and a seafood-centric restaurant—to boot. Oh, and cheese for days and days (and days).
For those devoted to squeezing the most out of their Italian goods, well, there’s a class for that. At the Scuola, home cooks can learn everything from shaping gnocchi to prepping a three-course meal (with wine pairings, naturally). “The more you know, the more you enjoy—as with everything in life.” Farinetti says. One can also roam about with a glass of wine in hand, making the experience all the more sophisticated.
Let’s not forget the sore spot: chef Mario Batali. Once seen skipping hand-in-hand with Eataly, the disgraced chef’s wares have, thankfully, been stricken from shelves. Following the much-discussed sexual conduct allegations towards the celebrity chef, the brand severed ties and focused on delivering what we all want: amazing product.
But back to that after-work drink. At Eataly Toronto, the equivalent of Manhattan’s rooftop bar is the brewery. Tucked away on the lower level, the Birroteca pours Indie Ale House beers, inviting camaraderie between stressed-out suits from the office world high above. Nailing down the pre, mid, and post-work crowd is part of Eataly’s genius. And, after all, everyone loves Italian.
Eataly opens Wednesday, November 13
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