When I moved to Chicago I kept hearing buzz about a place called Eataly.

“It’s the cutest little Italian market.” “My favorite cookbook is from Eataly!” “I love their cafes and bakery.” “They have the best wines.” “Every time I go I can never decide which restaurant to try.”

This place sounded like it was suffering from an identity crisis to me. I couldn’t picture all of those options under one roof, so finally I had to go see it for myself. It was everything my friends said and more.

FullandFearless_FoodEataly2Named the world’s largest Italian marketplace, both the New York and Chicago Eataly locations have multiple dine-in restaurants, a variety of quick cafes, counters perfect for enjoying a glass of wine or a charcuterie plate, a full bakery, an extensive retail space and even cooking classes. Walking through the doors for the first time is a bit of a sensory overload. Where to look? What to buy? And most importantly, what to eat? While I’ll probably have to return at least another ten times to even try half the options {not an over exaggeration}, I can at least speak to my Eataly experience thus far.

On my first visit to this little Italian paradise my friend and I decided to try the restaurant La Pizza & La Pasta. We ordered a Misticanza salad to share. While the pickled vegetables gave me pause, I knew I’d enjoy arugula, radicchio and endive greens, so I gave it a try. The radish and lemon vinaigrette kept the dish light and refreshing.

Due to a mix up we ended up with two pizzas. First out was the Pizza Marinara. I’m a true cheese lover, so this creation was a mystery to me. But, to my surprise, it was perfect as-is. The crust, in true Napoleon style, was soft and chewy with toasty edges. Freshly stewed tomatoes created a delightfully balanced sauce, which was enhanced by the bright flavors of roasted garlic, fresh basil leaves and extra virgin olive oil. Then we kept it simple with the Pizza Margherita because, when it comes to clean and authentic flavors, simple is always best. This pizza had all the same delicious elements as the first, just with chunky, gooey slices of melted mozzarella. My mouth is watering just thinking about it

IMG_0860On our way out I saw a sight I couldn’t pass – the Nutella bar. Life is always better with a little Nutella, so I needed a small treat for the road. After much deliberation I landed on the Bacio Di Dama con Nutella. English subtitles: Lady’s Kiss. Two hazelnut cookies sandwiched together with creamy, chocolatey goodness, I’d say this little kiss of Nutella heaven was accurately named.

My second visit to Eataly was another mid-week treat. *Hint: These are always the best times to hit up the popular spots. You get to avoid the lines by exploring sans tourists. No offense to Chicago visitors. Please come see me!

I digress. The second time I returned to La Pizza & La Pasta, but was determined to try something new, chosing to split the La Stella antipasti and Massese pizza with my roommate. So…I thought antipasti meant salad. Don’t know why I was under that impression, but I was. No, no fellow English speakers, it simply means appetizer, which is not limited to light veggies. unbeknownst to us we essentially ordered two pizzas. To our surprise when the La Stella arrived it was the same {amazing} Napoleon style pizza crust, only dressed with tangy arugula, FullandFearless_FoodEatalysweet cherry tomatoes, crisp basil, the perfect amount of extra virgin olive oil
and Grana Padano cheese lightly shaved across it all. So basically a salad, but on a pizza. After one bite though you couldn’t have dragged a complaint out of us. And the Massese didn’t disappoint either. Imagine all the perfection of the Margherita with the addition of spicy Italian salami. Doughy yet crunchy, rich yet light, velvety yet fiery – it was divine.  I had to forgo the sweet delicacies this time in favor of treats later in the evening, but not without  serious consideration. Don’t worry Nutella bar, I’ll be back for you.

Well now that I’ve worked up a craving for pizza, I’m going to sign off. Maybe to make a little pit stop by Eataly this weekend. Braving the crowds might be worth it for that little taste of Italy.

Happy Foodie Friday!

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