Fresh pasta? Check. Imported olive oil? Check. San Marzano tomatoes? Check.
You’ll find them—and much more—at Eataly Boston, the sprawling 45,000-square-foot food emporium devoted to Italian cuisine and wines that opened at the Prudential Center in November. The complex is the popular Italian-based chain’s fourth US location (there are two in New York and one in Chicago). Eataly Boston’s arrival has been heralded by foodies from all over New England, drawn to its numerous eateries, wine bars, and marketplace. You’ll find all of the fixings for a tasty at-home pasta dish, sweets, coffees and teas, housewares, and a variety of local and imported produce, meats, seafood, and cheeses.
Among the eateries are four restaurants, two cafés (one serving Lavazza coffee drinks exclusively), a wine bar, a juice bar, a salad bar, a panini counter, a rotisserie counter, a gelato counter, a pastry counter, a bakery, a creperia serving made-to-order crepes, and a cannoli cart. Terra, the last of the four restaurants, is scheduled to open later this winter.
Founder and creator Oscar Farinetti opened his first Eataly in an old vermouth factory in Torino, Italy, in 2007. There are now 33 around the globe, with more slated to open in the coming year. Farinetti’s son, Nicola, is CEO of Eataly USA, working with notable celebrity chefs-partners Mario Batali, Lidia Bastianich, and Joe Bastianich, who all had a hand in designing the complex. Eataly Boston replaced the Prudential Center’s former food court and has entrances on both Boylston Street and inside the Pru.
The brand’s motto, Eat, Shop, Learn, rings true—learning is a big part of the Eataly experience. There’s a cooking school on the premises, but even the staff working the various market counters are happy to educate novice shoppers. When we visited, a fish counter employee urged us to sample fresh raw scallops drizzled with a touch of fine olive oil, a delicious preparation unfamiliar to us.
“We work with artists who feed you,” Batali said of Eataly’s staff at the Boston press opening.
Below, we’ve put together a few of Eataly Boston’s highlights. But be warned: during peak lunch and dinner hours, the crowds can be a little overwhelming. The high-end emporium says it expects to feed about 10,000 people a day.
Each Eataly has a theme and Boston’s is, appropriately, seafood, a nod to the city’s proximity to the Atlantic and a plentiful supply of fresh fish. Boston chef and restaurateur Barbara Lynch (No. 9 Park) heads the seafood-centered restaurant Il Pesce, which has an ever-changing menu of seasonal, sustainable dishes. Eataly Boston offers a rewards program for purchasing designated abundant seasonal wild-caught fish here or at the fish counter. Some recent menu highlights: a stew made with Island Creek oysters, potatoes, and chives; spaghetti with Maine sea urchin butter, olives, and romanesco cauliflower; and grilled shrimp with spiced pumpkin, toasted seeds, and coriander honey. Note that tables at Eataly’s restaurants (save soon-to-open Terra) are first-come, first-served only—no reservations accepted.
Cheese Counter & Mozzarella Lab
Eataly is a cheese-lover’s heaven, offering an extensive selection of local and imported cheeses. You’ll find Italian staples like parmigiana reggiano, pecorino romano, and grana Padano, as well as cheeses from popular local New England cheesemakers like Shy Brothers Farm, Westport, Mass., the Grey Barn and Farm, Chilmark, Mass., and Grafton Village, Grafton, Vt. The cheese experts, who start at 7 a.m. every day, make fresh mozzarella right in front of patrons at the mozzarella lab, in keeping with the emporium’s educational component, using curds from Narragansett Creamery, in Providence, R.I. Occasionally, mozzarella’s cousins burrata and stracciatella are available, infused with flavors like fig and pesto.
Those two words say it all. Eataly Boston is the first in the chain to feature a cannoli cart. This one was custom-created in collaboration with Italian designer Modalita. Cannolis are made to order, with pastry chefs filling cannolo shells, made locally by Golden Cannoli, in Chelsea, Mass., with a choice of ricotta cream fillings. You can select from a classic cannolo, with plain ricotta filling and candied orange, or something more exotic, like a chocolate chip cannolo, which comes with a choice of two toppings, including hazelnuts, pistachios, and toasted almonds.
Think of Italy and think of wine. Every day from noon to 1 p.m. and 5 to 6 p.m., wine store Eataly Cantina hosts complimentary wine tastings. The store has a curated selection of wine, beer, and spirits from both Italy and New England. There are hundreds of wines from all over Italy to choose from and a special room is stocked with vintage wines dating to the 1960s.
Bakery & Focacceria
Eataly Boston’s bakery offers delicious to-go options that won’t break the bank. Throughout the day, bakers serve focaccia right from the oven in both savory and sweet varieties. Standouts are the simple Genovese focaccia, with sea salt and rosemary, and the chocolate banana focaccia, baked with bananas, walnuts, and bittersweet chocolate. There is a variety of pizza alla pala, a Roman-style flatbread pizza that makes a great lunch or dinner. Try the cotto variety, with prosciutto, mozzarella, pomegranate, and basil or the salsiccia e patate, with potatoes, spicy sausage, gorgonzola, and parsley.
Eataly Boston is at 800 Boylston St., in the Prudential Center. Take any Green Line train to Copley and walk. Today, Friday, January 27, 2016, Eataly Boston celebrates the company’s first decade with a 10 Years of Eataly celebration. Visitors receive a complimentary slice of cake at La Piazza, starting at 3 p.m. The festivities will also include a fish auction, in partnership with purveyor Red’s Best, from 4 to 4:45 p.m. The reduced-price auction is first-come, first-served, so plan to get there early.
Mara Sassoon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.