EATALY: The new behemoth on the block evolving the Italian food scene in Toronto

Eatly restaurant

With introduction comes transformation. Experienced professionals in the Italian food scene shed light on how the industry thrives in an ever-changing market that provides the opportunity for continuous creation. The evolution focuses not only on excellent food but creating a memorable experience for customers.   

With 40 stores world-wide, the first ever Canadian Eataly opened its doors on Nov. 13, 2019 in the Toronto Manulife Centre. There had been much anticipation in the months leading up to the grand opening and now, nearly three-months later, the hype continues: the store remains busy with foodies and customers who come with an appetite.

“Toronto is a city that is ready for an Eataly, with strong winter nationality, the Italian community and the taste people have. Toronto is a sophisticated market, people here already know the difference between the sauces and pastas, they are ready for an additional level,” said Nicolo’ Dagnino, director of store operations.

Eataly chef
Nicolo’ Dagnino of Eataly Toronto. (Monica Ferguson/Toronto Observer)

“Toronto is a city where we always want something new, fresh and exciting,” says David Minicucci, owner of some of Toronto’s top Italian restaurants: Giulietta and L’Unità Enoteca. Indeed, Minicucci is practicing this ideology as he closes his beloved L’Unità after a decade in Yorkville, to make room for a new restaurant with partner Rob Rossi. “The restaurant that would have come before Giulietta, her older sister,” he says, is expected to open at the same location in Spring 2020.  

The Italian Canadian community has been present in Toronto for quite some time now. So how are they receiving this newcomer?

“Most of the items and the lifestyle has been here for at least the last 20 years, but in part,” said Pal Di Iulio, editor at Panoram Italia Magazine Toronto. Italian products are plentiful at establishments like Lady York, Pusateri’s Fine Foods and Maselli’s Supermarket to name only a few, and many of the products sold at Eataly are not new to the city. However, Eataly provides customers with something else: a cultural learning experience.

“Eataly makes it fun because it is 20 things rolled into one. It sells what Italy sells best: culture and lifestyle,” Di Iulio said. 

With a fully stocked market, two cafes, a dedicated chocolate counter with hazelnut spread on tap (Yes, really!), a cannoli station, gelateria, in-house brewery, grab-and-go stations as well as three restaurants currently on-site with a new one to be unveiled soon, what more could you possibly want?

“People are loving it but we are always thinking about how we can improve,” says Eataly’s Dagnino.

The three-level facility takes the Italian food scene that is known and loved in Toronto to the next level focusing on the philosophy of eating well. The versatile Mediterranean cuisine takes the spotlight while incorporating meat, dairy, fish and produce from Italy and local suppliers.

“We have put sustainability at the core of our mission simply because handling food comes with great responsibility,” Dagnino said. In this way, the store is introducing the real Italian classics but with a North American take that utilizes Canadian products.

“Essentially what they’re doing is going back to the idea of all of Europe, the old world…you eat where you are,” Minicucci said.

Eataly is going beyond sourcing local products to achieve ethical sustainability but they are also, “making, as we speak, alliances with local food banks so that no food is wasted,” Dagnino said. The arrangement is still in the works but is planned to roll out in the next month or so.

Eataly offers something that is unique to the city. It is less a place to grocery shop and more a place to explore, learn and celebrate all under one roof. It is all about eating and understanding what you are eating, and doing so generates respect for everything. There are information cards placed around the shop that gives the shoppers knowledge on what they are buying and the history of that product.

“People walk through the store and they learn so much and when they come home the dialogue expands in the dining room. If you have guests for dinner and bought the whole meal from Eataly, what are you going to talk about? The food, and all that you’ve learned,” Minicucci predicts.  

Whether it be a family lunch over pizza in the restaurant La Piazza, celebratory drinks with friends at the in-house brewery Birroteca, or taking part in an interactive class making pasta from scratch, Eataly acts as a tourist investment for the city and creates a piazza to see and be seen wrapped in Italian culture.

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Posted: Jan 6 2020 8:07 pm
Filed under: News