Five Things I Love Most About Eataly

It’s been 19 months since Eataly Dallas opened. I checked my credit card, and, in those 19 months, I’ve spent close to $5,000 there. How? It was easy. The truth is, I love the place.

If you’ve traveled to Italy, you likely hang on to memories of the pizza you ate at a tiny restaurant at the base of the Spanish Steps in Rome, or the stunningly simple fish you had in Liguria, cooked lightly with lemon, parsley, olive oil, and salt, or the earthy truffle dish you had in Piedmont, with a glass of Prosecco from nearby Trieste. There are places you go where food is a small part of the experience. In Italy, it’s the primary experience. Food is the primordial expression of Italy.

When travel isn’t possible or practical, food is travel on a plate. In the past 19 months, not only have I made at least one weekly trek to Eataly Dallas, tens of thousands of shoppers and diners have also been transported to Italy through the magic of food. True, Dallas has always done Italian. Jimmy’s Food Store is a wonderful, iconic Italian market in East Dallas, and we have excellent Italian restaurants in Dallas, including Lucia, Nonna, and Partenope, but Eataly is more than a market, more than a restaurant. It’s “eatertainment.”

Opening in December 2020 was tricky, but Eataly Dallas’ Store Director Robert Domian said they are thrilled with the warm welcome they’ve received in Dallas. “The community and culture here is so vibrant and energetic it’s the perfect complement to the Eataly experience,” he said.

“Sales have been steadily growing since we opened our doors in 2020, which was a challenging time to open, but Eataly Dallas has an incredible team who have built a growing base of loyal customers who shop our marketplace regularly and are beginning to visit our restaurants as one of their primary dining destinations.”

Yes, North Texans have supported Eataly but, so too, has Eataly supported North Texans. Eataly has contributed to many local philanthropies including the North Texas Food Bank, The Resource Center, Two x Two, The Family Place, Grow North Texas, and Slow Food DFW.  There is much to like about this place and its leadership.

All that gushing and I haven’t even gotten to the Five Things I Love Most About Eataly.

So, here they are:

PHOTO: Venchi

5. Venchi Chocolates: Initially I was just attracted to the twinkling display of chocolates that illuminate the space with its glorious foil-wrapped bon bons and bars. Then I tasted them. Creamy, rich, sweet, but not cloyingly so, these chocolates are luxurious. Venchi is to chocolate what Loro Piano is to cashmere and Maserati is to a four-dour sedan. Elegant, elevated, and expensive, but worth the indulgence.

4. The People: With more than 350 “Eat-al-yians” who work at Eataly Dallas, you know there’s a lot of effort and care that goes on behind the scenes. Bread is baked just about around the clock; pasta is hand rolled, served, and sold throughout the day; the pastry department cranks out more than 1,100 tiramisus a week, and the kitchens of the four restaurants are constantly in motion. This is a significant operation, but they make it look easy.

This Eataly pizza chef is having fun. Photo: Eataly

Every employee I’ve encountered here is friendly, professional, and passionate about Italian food and culture. From the guy behind the fresh pasta counter with a twinkle in his eye bragging about the fresh pasta and house-made cacio e pepe sauce, to the bread bakers who will sell you their imported flour to make Italian bread at home, to the wait staff at each of the restaurants, every encounter I’ve had has been lovely. 

It’s so uplifting that sometimes when I’m feeling low I just go there to cheer myself up, much like Holly Golightly going to Tiffany’s.

3. Il Pastaio: The interior-most restaurant in Eataly is my favorite restaurant in Eataly Dallas. It’s the smallest of the four, doesn’t have the view like Terra, or the gorgeous bar like La Pasta and La Pizza, but it’s located adjacent to the pasta-making operation (hence, the name) which, to me, is the heartbeat of Eataly.

Whether you sit at the bar or at a high-top table, close to other diners but protected from milling shoppers, it’s high energy and engaging. The menu is divided into regions, north, south, and central so you can order a pasta dish from that region. My favorite is the Casarecce alla Trapanese, a semolina-based pasta with a hearty, satisfying Sicilian pesto with tomatoes and almonds.  It’s my go-to dish along with a glass of Grillo, also from Sicily.

2. The Butcher Shop: Eataly’s butcher counter is a source for the highest quality meat, poultry, and even custom dry-aged cuts. When it first opened, I couldn’t wrap my head around buying raw meat at the mall. However, one day when I was Nordstroming, I had a hankering for veal scallopini. I popped into Eataly and ordered four slices of veal, which the butcher cut from a beautiful pink veal tenderloin roast the size of a ham. The veal was delicious; so much better than when scaloppini is precut and left to dry out in the case.

PHOTO: Eataly

If you like dry-aged beef, Eataly Dallas has created an extensive dry aging program featuring prime beef, American wagyu, grass-fed beef, and special cuts. For those looking for something custom, Eataly Dallas’s butchers are happy to dry age a custom cut for you. Or you can stop by their butcher counter and pick up one of their specialty aged cuts – dry-aged for up to 60 days in Texas whiskey, Italian Barolo, and even Parmigiano Reggiano DOP. We grilled up some Barolo-aged ribeyes and they were tender, juicy, and flavorful — a real treat.

1. Events

Today’s successful retail outlets emphasize experience and Eataly has perfected the experience. The merchandising is visually stunning, but the in-store activities and events are what make Eataly so outstanding.

The on-site cooking school offers a regular schedule of cooking classes which are led by a talented group of in-house chefs. On Saturdays around 3 p.m., you can attend a free cooking demonstration that includes samples of things like fresh pulled mozzarella.

The third-floor restaurant Terra hosts award-winning chefs such as Tiffany Derry, Junior Borges, and Dean Fearing for spectacular ticketed dinner parties. Chef collaborations are all the rage right now and Eataly has excelled at it.

Eataly’s partnerships with vendors offer opportunities to meet celebrity chefs such as Lidia Bastianich who led an engaging tour throughout Eataly as if she was a full-time staffer. The store also hosts winemakers, chefs, and artists regularly.

The biggest event Eataly hosts is “All-You-Can-Eataly,” a ticketed food festival for Italian food, spirits, and wine. The event takes place throughout the public spaces of the 46,000-square-foot emporium as well as in a gigantic, tented space in the adjacent parking lot. This food festival serves generous servings of everything Eataly sells or prepares, from fresh oysters to grilled quail to pizza, pasta, gelato, wine, bread, and cheese. There is no skimping on the offerings here. This event is a sight to behold, with fellow foodies wearing wine glasses draped around their necks in food heaven.

There are so many things to love about Eataly, this list just scratches the surface, and they are things I want to share with readers. One more thing especially appealing about Eataly now is that it’s a cool place to hang out. If you’re in Dallas right now, you might be looking for a place to escape the brutal heat. Go to Eataly and get yourself a coppe, Italy’s version of an ice cream sundae, or have an iced latte and a slice of Torta alla Ricotta Arancia at Café Lavazza.

You might think I work for Eataly given how frequently I write and post about it. I don’t, though if I could, I would become a Pasta Consigliera and spend my days advising guests on which pasta to use with which sauce.

Honestly, I just really like it and it’s the closest thing I’ll get to Italy for a while. To take advantage of the in-store sales, specials, and events, sign up for their newsletter here and watch the calendar of events. Ciao, divertiti!

Kersten Rettig

Kersten Rettig has represented some of world's best known brands in her 30+ years in marketing and PR, including Montblanc, Rosewood Hotels, Highland Park Village and Taco Bell. As a former restaurant owner, she knows the business and has a deep affection for the hospitality industry. She is a Park Cities resident and a happy wife, mom of three and dogmother. Follow her @KerstenEats.

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