Whenever we’re in the Flatiron district, I love to teasingly goad Michael into dropping in on Eataly; lately, his response has been simply “OK, see you at home then.” You may recall our initial impressions of Eataly New York when it first opened over Labor Day weekend in 2010; I’ve made a few visits there since then on my own, and I can’t say that my initial impressions have changed all that much. Any time I’ve purchased ingredients to make dinner I’ve been extremely satisfied with the results, and on my last visit I treated myself to a Neapolitan-style pizza that was easily among the best pizzas I ever had. But on the weekends the place was nearly as claustrophobic as it had been on opening weekend, and for all of the text on the walls celebrating Italian food culture, I was still left rather…cold.
Over Christmas I had heard that there were other Eataly locations opening up in the next few years, with a Chicago location having opened in November and space on a spot in Philadelphia allegedly secured. In chatting with my brother-in-law and his boyfriend about the latter, reflecting on the good and the disappointing, I realized that it had been a while since I went there and maybe, just maybe I had been too hard on the place, that I was trying to make it into something it never set out to be anyway. So when we were in Chicago a few weekends ago and I realized that Eataly Chicago was open and right off of Michigan Avenue, I decided to see if perhaps the second iteration had improved upon the first.