It is a rare occurrence for a totally unique food spot to come to the Boston area, as nearly everything has been done in one way or another. But now with the opening of Eataly at the Prudential Center just about here, the city is on the verge of having a place that is truly one of a kind in the region—and one that many have been eagerly awaiting since plans to open it were first announced in April of last year. The folks behind the Italian emporium brought the media in late last week for a tour to show the setup of the place and what will be offered there, with the hour-long tour being an interesting, informative, and highly entertaining one overall.
The first Eataly store opened in Turin, Italy, in 2007, and today a total of 30 shops can be found around the world, including a very well-known outlet in the Flatiron/Madison Square section of Manhattan and another that recently opened in the World Trade Center. The Flatiron branch of Eataly is massive, with more 50,000 square feet of space, and while the upcoming store in the Pru is nearly as big (at 45,000 square feet), it has quite a different feel to it, seeming a bit more like a collection of shops and having an almost cozy, intimate vibe—and the Boston shop also has a bit more of a focus on seafood (all of the Eataly locations tend to lean toward a specific theme).
For those who were familiar with the old food court at the Pru, the layout of Eataly may give the sense of déjà vu at times, since even the best buildouts and renovations of a space can only do so much, and some in the media group had fun picking out which now-closed food court dining spot had been located at which section of the new complex. Eataly Boston is ultimately a new and unique-feeling space, however, and is set up in such a way that customers can go from one area to another within the shop without getting lost or overly confused. The store has two entrances—one upstairs within the mall where the food court entrance had been and another outside at sidewalk level where Caffe Lavazza and Creperia Italiana can be found, with the little coffee/espresso spot and crepe place being the only part of the emporium at ground level. A staircase (and escalators) leads from the cafe and creperie up to the main part of the complex, which includes stations for rotisserie meats, cheeses, cured meats, seafood, breads, focaccia, pastries, chocolates, panini, salads, produce, and dairy products, along with a to-go station, a wine shop, a cannoli cart, a juice bar, a housewares section, and displays for olive oil, tomato sauce, condiments, and more. Three restaurants that are independent of each other can be found at Eataly, including Il Pesce, a seafood spot headed up by award-winning chef Barbara Lynch, La Pizza & La Pasta, which offers freshly made pastas and wood-fired pizza, and a social-feeling spot called La Piazza, which is in the center of the space and offers shareable plates of meats and cheeses as well as beer, wine, and cocktails. A small cooking school area is tucked away in the back, with the space being used for daily tastings and hands-on classes. There is a third floor to Eataly as well, and while the media was not able to take a look at the space, it will eventually be home to an Italian restaurant called Terra.
One feature of Eataly Boston that some might not be aware of is the fact that while many of its products are imported from Italy and elsewhere, much of the food happens to come from local and regional businesses, including such places as Red’s Best, New England Charcuterie, and Grafton Village Cheese. Generally, the focus at Eataly is on high-quality food with discounts actually kept to a minimum, making it more of a place to purchase small amounts of fresh, seasonal items than products in bulk at low prices.
With the opening of Eataly Boston on Nov 29, the city will have an all-in-one marketplace that feels just a bit like a public food market. And part of the buzz certainly comes from one Eataly partner in particular: celebrity chef, writer, TV personality, and restaurateur Mario Batali. He, along with Eataly founder Oscar Farinetti, Eataly USA CEO Nicola Farinetti, and partners Adam Saper, Alex Saper, Joe Bastianich, and Lidia Bastianich, has helped bring about one of the biggest food-related openings in the Boston area in recent memory, one that will likely be jam-packed with customers the minute it opens its doors for the first time—and most likely for a long time to come.
EATALY BOSTON, 800 BOYLSTON ST, BOSTON. EATALY.COM/US_EN/STORES/BOSTON/
Marc is the founder of @hiddenboston, a textbook editor, a hike leader for @AppMtnClub, and a food and travel writer and commenter for DigBoston, NBC/NECN, WBZ, WMFO and indie617.