Inside Eataly Toronto, the new 50,000-square-foot location of the long-awaited Italian food emporium

Inside Eataly Toronto, the new 50,000-square-foot location of the long-awaited Italian food emporium

Get your stretchy pants on, Toronto, because it’s finally happening: after three long years of waiting, we’re getting our very own Eataly. On November 13, the brand’s 40th location will open inside the Manulife Centre at Bay and Bloor. The store spans three floors of the building, filling 50,000 square feet with pasta-makers, pizza ovens, a seafood restaurant, an enoteca, 400-plus kinds of cheese, a gelateria, a brewery, a marketplace, a culinary classroom and—coming next month—a morning-to-night Italian-style café serving all kinds of caffeinated and boozy beverages. Nicola Farinetti, the global CEO and son of Eataly founder Oscar Farinetti, gave us a tour of the impressive space before it opens to the public. Here’s a look at what you can expect.

This dining space is devoted to two very important dishes. “We usually put a sign here that says Welcome to Italy, because this is the expectation of people: I’m going to Italy, I want to have pizza and pasta,” says Farinetti:

“Not enough people take pizza seriously, but we do,” says Farinetti. “We take it so seriously that we partnered with a family from Naples, Rossopomodoro, to make our Napoletana pizza.”

“We would suggest that all of our customers try the Margherita Verace pizza. One less topping, more flavour is what we say. It’s so easy to hide bad ingredients by adding one more flavour that overpowers everything. When you go down to only four or five ingredients, then you’ve gotta buy the best. One of our philosophies is that it’s difficult to be simple.”

The same “simple is better” philosophy applies to Eataly’s pasta dishes, including this classic spaghetti pomodoro:

If you like what you eat, you can find everything to make it yourself at home, including house-made pasta:

Pastaio Luca Donofrio (who has an Instagram account worth checking out) is skilled in all of Italy’s 400-plus pastas shapes (and maybe a few he made up himself, according to Farinetti):

Every single Eataly location has the same wood-burning oven, shipped over from Spain and built on-site. The bakers here make 1000 loaves a day using Italian organic and stone-ground flour:

The wood-fired oven is in that room to the right:

And here’s some more bread, coming out of a different oven:

Shoppers will find three kinds of pizza at Eataly: Neapolitan (from Naples), pizza alla pala (from Rome) and pizza alla padellino (from Torino). Pictured below is the pizza alla pala. “It’s much crunchier,” says Farinetti. “For that reason, it’s a to-go option in Italy. So that’s why we serve it in the bakery here. You can just grab it and go.”

Not including the house-pulled mozzarella, the formaggi counter stocks up to 600 different types of cheese. Many are Italian, but many are also local:

Check out this wall of $2000 wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano:

This is what one looks like all carved up. They go through one wheel a day, serving it with fancy-pants balsamic vinegar made by Osteria Francescana chef Massimo Bottura):

Depending on what side you approach the pescheria, supplied by local Diana’s Seafood, it’s either a fish counter, a fish restaurant or a raw bar:

Here’s a closer look at some of the product it stocks:

There’s more than just fish:

Check this handsome guy out. (It’s a monkfish):

Here’s the macelleria, or butcher shop. “If you eat bad meat five days a week, you can eat amazing meat three days a week,” says Farinetti. “You spend the same amount of money, you’re gonna feel better because we don’t need that much meat according to our Mediterranean diet, and you respect everything more—the animals, the environment, the supplier.”

There’s a lot of dry-aging that happens here:

These tables here are part of the piazza, or square. “That’s the place you go to in an Italian village before you do anything else,” says Farinetti. “You meet in the square, get a coffee or a glass of wine and then go. So that’s the point here: you arrive, you get a coffee or some wine, and then you can decide what you want to eat, whether it’s in the piazza or at another one of our restaurants in the store.”

This here is Rob Wing, the executive chef of Eataly Toronto:

Photo by Renée Suen

There’s also an enoteca, if you want to throw back an aperitivo:

This café is the smaller of Eataly’s two. The grand café will open on the main floor in November:

It’s next to the pastry and chocolate counter, which stocks Venchi products. “This is the best chocolate in the world,” says Farinetti. “I am biased because it comes from a place very close to my house. Some of the finest hazelnuts are grown in the city that I come from. That is why crema gianduja and Nutella were born where we come from. Eat one of these chocolates and the flavour will last in your mouth all the way to Christmas—if you don’t brush your teeth.”

Also in what Farinetti calls the “sweets corridor,” is the gelateria, where gelato is made in-house using milk from Ontario’s own Sheldon Creek Dairy. “Every time we open a new location, we choose milk made at a local dairy, which means we need to rework the recipes every time to suit the products: from the cappuccino to the mozzarella to the gelato.”

Here’s just one section of the mercatto, where you can find all you need to buy in order to replicate Eataly meals at home:

There’s also a section dedicated to olive oil and vinegars:

Christmas is coming, which means the panettone is out:

And here’s the scuola, or school, where you can take all kinds of culinary classes. “We always say that Eataly is about three things: eating, shopping and learning,” says Farinetti. “And this is where you can get to learn a little more. Information leads you to a much better understanding of everything, including food. The more you know, the more you enjoy and appreciate it.”

It’s not quite finished yet, but Indie Ale House’s birroteca occupies Eataly’s lower level. Long before Eataly was even a twinkle in Toronto’s eye, Indie owner Jason Fisher emailed Farinetti to say that when Eataly comes to Toronto, he wants to run the on-site brewery. Five years later, it’s actually happening. The birroteca will function mainly as a grab-and-go retail shop, but the bar will also offer tasting flights and snacks:

Of course there’s Eataly Toronto merch:

Every Eataly location is dedicated to a different value. Eataly Toronto is dedicated to multiculturalism. “Toronto is probably the best at having so many cultures in one city living peacefully together,” says Farinetti. “And just like there is food biodiversity, there is human biodiversity.” Over the last few years, photographer Oliveiro Toscani has captured the faces of more that 85,000 people:

Until November 13: