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5 ways Eataly can help ease college students into gourmet dining

Eataly Chicago team member Angelica Pujols cuts up fresh fruit in the produce department.

Eataly Chicago team member Angelica Pujols cuts up fresh fruit in the produce department.

By Claire Miller

The type of food consumed in college is rarely considered gourmet.

Venturing out of the dining halls, college students like Ashley Wile, find reasonably priced and high quality items at the Italian marketplace and restaurant chain Eataly Chicago. Wile, a senior at Loyola University Chicago shopped and dined at both the Eataly in Chicago and in New York on several occasions.

Eataly offers young adults a chance to ease into gourmet with their simple and accessible variety of food options. The two-story maze of fresh products, colorful packaging and strong aromas contains all types of Italian cuisine to buy and also consume on site. Eataly hopes to provide easy access to authentic food to everybody said Valeria Fanelli, Eataly Chicago PR Director.

She said the concept of Eataly comes from the Italian norm of having small shops located in each town. A native Italian, Fanelli said getting to know the owners of the local establishments happens often.

Here are 5 ways college students can incorporate more gourmet into their diet without hurting their budget or sacrificing study time.

Take advantage of the produce prep.

Eataly goes directly to growers and small local businesses to buy produce. Most of the products are from within a range of 500 miles or less from Chicago Fanelli said.

Produce is neatly arranged in baskets and carts, an gesture to the traditional marketplace the business tries to recreate. While patrons continue shopping, employees will cut up the fruits and vegetables they buy. The service is complimentary to any produce purchases. Wile said the establishment is full service.

“They help you expand your culinary knowledge and help you expand your culinary techniques,” she said.

Don’t be afraid of the drink options.

“We believe that wine is for everybody,” Massimo Serradimigni, the wine manager at Eataly, said.

He said Eataly wants wine to be approachable and enjoyed by anybody, no matter how much background or previous experience they have in wine drinking. Rustic barrels are attached to one wall while row and rows of bottles in all shades of red and white fill the floor.

Eataly has a wide variety of wines ranging in price. One of the cheaper red wines, Cembra Schiava is $11.80. There are several white wines priced between $12.80 and $14.80 including a Tommasi Soave.

Not only does Eataly brew their own beer in house, but they also sell local, recognizable Chicago brands like Revolution Brewing Company.

James Hall, who is a part of the beverage team at Eataly, said Italians always pair alcohol with food.

He said thyme infused beer makes more sense knowing that it is complimentary to the food you choose to go with it.

Wile said the staff will always offer wine pairings and recommendations of what to drink depending on what you’re eating.

Use the on-the-go caffeine options for busy schedules.

Jessica Lawson, a barista at Eataly, said the espresso is made with high quality beans.

Baristas focus on making sure the grind of the bean is “on point”.

There are two different coffee bars at Eataly, featuring Lavazzo brand on the first floor and Caffe Verganano on the second floor. A shot of espresso can be sipped standing up right next to the café if one is in need of a quick caffeine boost.

Caffe Verganano has bolder taste and basic drinks while the Lavazzo bar offers more fancy, Americanized coffee drinks, Lawson said.

Eataly’s medium iced coffee for $2.50 and medium cappuccino for $3.85 are slightly more expensive than Starbucks drinks of comparable size.

A traditional Italian espresso machine is used at the Caffe Verganano on the second floor.

A traditional Italian espresso machine is used at the Caffe Verganano on the second floor.

Try basic carb staples for a quick and cheap dinner.

Eataly sells dry, packaged pasta as well as freshly handmade pasta.

Brightly lit cases display an array of shapes and colors of pasta dough sprinkled with white flour. A longer, thin noodle of the spaghetti variety called maccheroni alla chitarra is $2.07 a portion. All of the fresh pastas cook within two to four minutes. There are recipes available to take home and try said Fanelli.

Loaves of freshly baked bread made at Eataly are $4.50. This price is right in the range of Whole Foods bakery that sells their bread for between $3.99 and $4.99.

Wile said she really appreciates the fresh pasta.

“It’s a big deal for me,” Wile said, “because I don’t have the stuff to make it here [while away at school].”

Ask the experienced staff to guide you.

According to Fanelli, each department has its own manager. Eataly’s philosophy is to eat, shop and learn. They want to offer good food that’s affordable she said. Customers can try samples of any products in the store they are interested in.

Serradimigni said the open layout and many glass partitions that offer a view of food and beverage production are intentional. Eataly wants customers to see how their food is made and prepared.

“We want everything to be transparent,” he said.

Wile said the staff is always really helpful and well informed.

“Ask them how to prepare something,” she said, “they are going to know.”

Wile, who comes from Italian heritage, said that every time she visits Eataly it brings back memories of visiting Italy and cooking with her mom.

“It’s Italian approved.”

Take a virtual preview of the Eataly Chicago location:

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The Hub Bub is a collection of articles, videos, audio, photo slideshows, interactive maps and other media produced by students enrolled in journalism courses at Loyola University Chicago's School of Communication. For more about the School of Communication, our award winning faculty, and our state of the art facilities located in the heart of Chicago, visit our website.