Canada’s first Eataly is not your typical market
It was like going to opening night at TIFF as thousands lined up on a snowy evening outside the Manulife Centre in Yorkville. They were there to get a glimpse of Eataly’s 40th location worldwide, to enjoy free samples, and take part in the historic moment. Mayor John Tory was on hand to cut the ribbon before hundreds being warmed by portable heaters, passed through the red velvet barrier ropes and ascended the steps to a revolving door that opened up into the experience that is Eataly.
The shopping and dining concept is an Italian foodie paradise, sprawling over three floors, and 50,000 square feet comprising 4 restaurants, 7 eateries, 3 bars, 10,000 plus products from Italy and Canada, 5 production labs, 1 brewery and 1 hands-on cooking school. The Toronto location is appropriately dedicated to the theme of multiculturalism. Diversity, international knowledge, and the global community are an integral part of Toronto’s makeup, being home to more than 250 ethnicities from Italian to Indian and Greek to Korean.
Eataly is the brainchild of creator and founder, Oscar Farinetti who according to their press release, started out in the electronics industry in 1978 building an empire of 150 Unieuro locations before selling it in 2003 and opening the first Eataly in Torino, Italy in 2007. “Oscar’s aim is to make high-quality Italian foods available to everyone, at fair prices, and in an environment where people can eat, shop, and learn.”
And that is what they have done at the Toronto location, priding themselves on staying as local as possible and importing from as many sustainable Italian producers as possible. They partner whenever possible with local farmers, bakers cheesemakers and more to deliver the freshest food to your table.
Upon entering you are welcomed by Il Gran Caffe, an upscale Italian bar serving aromatic Italian coffee from illy, breakfast and lunch items to eat-in or take out and late-night bites. Il Gran Caffe is inspired by the elegant cafés of Italy and it is both beautiful and functional.
Ascending the escalator a floor-to-ceiling diversity-themed mural dominates the east wall. Designed by renowned Italian photographer, Oliviero Toscani best known for his work with the United Colours of Benetton, the mural captivates, with a mosaic of hundreds of peoples’ faces from around the world, representing the cultural diversity of Toronto.
Disembark from the escalator into the main Eataly market experience that includes a produce market, a cured meats and cheeses market that will satisfy all your charcuterie needs, a mozzarella station, a fishmonger, butcher, bakery, bookshop and more. It is almost like experiencing an entire Italian village – minus the gorgeous architecture – all under one roof.
Here, you can also experience three different styles of pizza, fresh pastas, artisanal breads, a hot table, incredibly crunchy and creamy cannoli, gelato, along with intoxicating coffee and chocolate aromas.
At the opening, all four restaurants were jam-packed as guests took the opportunity to sample the gourmet Italian cuisine at La Piazza, La Pescheria and Diane’s Seafood bar, l The main market area is a veritable labyrinth of foodie heaven and if you get lost, the 400 strong staff are most helpful.
If you have a sweet tooth, head to La Pasticceria & Caffee to sample incredible Italian Venchi chocolates and their supreme dark chocolate and hazlenut spread fountain. Do not confuse this with Nutella, the Venchi Suprema Fondente is other worldly containing 37 percent hazelnuts farmed in northern Italy.
After taking it all in craft beer lovers are advised to descend to the basement to whet their whistles at Birroteca by Indie Ale House. Eataly has collaborated with highly touted Junction brewers, Indie Ale House to provide a casual tasting room, beer shop and in-house brewery. Some of the brews at Birroteca are exclusive to Eataly Toronto including a refreshing traditional Italian pilsner, and rotating monthly taps inspired by fresh ingredients from the Eataly market.
With stouts being more popular in the colder months, we highly recommend that you try the Indie Ale House Dolce-Pastry Stout. It is velvety smooth tiramisu inspired with lactose, espresso and vanilla, and at 9.6% it will surely warm your cockles and a cold winter’s eve. Their Lupo Italian Pale Ale should satisfy IPA lovers with its subtle pine and less than subtle grapefruit notes. Birroteca also has salty snacks including their own in-house potato chips. Try the lime and chipotle if you like to spice things up.
Birroteca is open every day from 7 am – 10 pm, Il Gran Caffe is open Mon. – Thurs. 7am – 10 pm, Fri,. 7 am -11pm Sat. 8am – 11 pm and Sun. 8 am to 10 pm. La Pizza E La Pasta is open every day 11 am – 10 pm, while La Pescheria and La Piazza are open every day from 11:30 am – 10 pm.
For more information about Eataly and a complete list of hours for all of their restaurants and markets visit eataly.ca.
by Terence Lankstead
photography Robert Pawliw