Eataly Bos­ton takes the food em­po­rium to new heights

Lo­cal meets Ital­ian on a grand scale at foodie des­ti­na­tion Eataly Bos­ton.

Where Boston - - NEWS - By Mat Schaf­fer Pho­tog­ra­phy by Brian Babineau

If you like eat­ing Ital­ian—and who doesn’t—Eataly will rock your world. This shrine to

cucina Ital­iana, which opened at the Pru­den­tial Cen­ter last year, is part su­per­mar­ket, part restau­rant, part culi­nary school and part spec­ta­cle. Eataly dis­tills the vast panoply of Ital­ian food cul­ture into 45,000 square feet of shop­ping, eat­ing, and drink­ing. It’s a food em­po­rium on steroids. Ital­ian busi­ness­man Os­car Farinetti opened the first Eataly in 2007 in Turin, Italy. The com­pany quickly ex­panded to 33 lo­ca­tions world­wide, in­clud­ing Den­mark, Turkey, Ja­pan and Brazil, with more on the way.

EM­PO­RIUM

Bos­ton is the fourth Eataly in the U.S., join­ing New York (with two stores), and Chicago. The Amer­i­can lo­ca­tions are co-owned by PBS cook­ing per­son­al­ity Lidia Bas­tianich, her son Joe, and celebrity restau­ra­teur Mario Batali.

“There’s an old Ital­ian say­ing ‘una città a misura d’uomo’ which means ‘a city the right size for man,’” says Lidia Bas­tianich. “Ev­ery­thing (in Bos­ton) is ac­ces­si­ble. It’s a food town. With all the stu­dents, there’s a café cul­ture. Of all the cities where we’ve opened, Bos­ton is the clos­est that you get to an Ital­ian city.”

The Eataly ex­pe­ri­ence tends to blow first timers away. There are mul­ti­ple coun­ters to or­der food to take home or con­sume at one of the small ta­bles sprin­kled around the front and rear of the store. There’s a cof­fee and break­fast pas­try sta­tion and a counter for sand­wiches (try the home­made potato chips). There’s a salad bar and sta­tions sell­ing pre­pared foods: ro­tis­serie chicken and roast meats; fo­cac­cia and pizza slices; gelato and pas­tries.

Three restau­rants oc­cupy the cen­ter of the space: La Piazza for ca­sual nosh­ing, wine and shared plates; La Pizza & La Pasta; and Il Pesce, a seafood restau­rant where the menu was put to­gether by Bos­ton su­per­star chef Barbara Lynch. All of the restau­rants are first-come, first-served with no reser­va­tions. A fourth restau­rant, Terra, fea­tur­ing a room spe­cial­iz­ing in bar­relaged draft beers, opens on the third floor this spring.

And then there are the shops sit­u­ated around the perime­ter that re­cre­ate the ex­pe­ri­ence of small-town shop­ping in Italy. There’s a bak­ery sell­ing sour­dough breads, rang­ing from semolina baguettes to rus­tic coun­try loaves stud­ded with or­ange peel, choco­late chips or olives. Eataly’s fish­mon­ger is one of the best in the city—boast­ing va­ri­eties like mack­erel, monk­fish, skate, oc­to­pus, and wild squid, in ad­di­tion to the usual cod, salmon and shell­fish. They also sell bac­cala and bot­targa (salted fish roe).

All fish, meats and veg­eta­bles are lo­cally sourced when­ever pos­si­ble. The cheese and sa­lumi de­part­ment has one of the most ex­ten­sive se­lec­tions of do­mes­tic and im­ported cheeses and cold cuts in town. Plus, they make their own moz­zarella. The pasta shop sells ravi­oli, tagli­atelle, and mac­cheroni, made be­fore your eyes.

Then there’s the mas­sive sec­tion of im­ported Ital­ian gro­ceries, many of which aren’t eas­ily found out­side Italy. If you have ques­tions, ask one of Eataly’s ami­able em­ploy­ees, many of whom have en­cy­clo­pe­dic knowl­edge of Ital­ian food­stuffs.

“We want to make sure that what you’re mak­ing re­flects the au­then­tic, Ital­ian, old-world ver­sion of what it’s sup­posed to be,” says as­sis­tant gro­cery man­ager Jay Kraft, who can ex­plain the fla­vor pro­files of Sar­dinian olive oils and the mer­its of San Marzano toma­toes.

Need ideas on how to cook what you’ve just pur­chased? At the rear left of the store, there’s a glassed-in, demon­stra­tion kitchen, which of­fers mul­ti­ple classes each week (from gnoc­chi-mak­ing to the wines and cheeses of Tus­cany). And at the rear right (in front of the large wine de­part­ment with over 1,000 la­bels), there are cook­books, im­ported table­ware, and kitchen equip­ment, all for sale.

What will be the ef­fect of Eataly on the North End, Bos­ton’s iconic Ital­ian-Amer­i­can neigh­bor­hood? Long­time North End restau­ra­teur Donato Frat­taroli isn’t wor­ried. “The North End is an en­tity unto its own,” he says. “I think Eataly is great for the city, but, at the end of the day, I re­ally don’t think it im­pacts the North End.”

So now the Back Bay has its very own North End.

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