Eataly, Chicago- A Gourmand’s Dream Come True

You walk in to a gourmet fresh produce market with raisins dried on the vine, exotic fruits, fresh vegetables, and a free vegetable butchering service. Turn to the right and approach a coffee bar, then a snack bar, an ice cream shop, chocolate shop, and home goods specialty shop. Head up to the second floor and enter a brewery, winery, olive oil shop, bakery, cooking school, pizzeria, vegetable restaurant, fish market and restaurant, cheese shop, fresh pasta shop, butcher counter, salumi shop… I’m definitely forgetting a number of “shops” under this two-story department store sized restaurant and marketplace. But, hopefully you get my point if you haven’t had the pleasure of visiting EATALY in NYC, Chicago, or any of its other European, Middle Eastern, or Asian locations.

Sean and I did a really quick reconnaissance after enjoying The Publican, and decided to return the next day for lunch.

We chose to dine at the Verduri restaurant, and started with their Bruschetta del Giorno.

Bruschetta EATALY

And a couple glasses of rosé in EATALY glasses (available for purchase, of course).

EATALY rosé

Next came the Asparagi dish with a beautifully fried egg on top.

Asparagi

We followed that with Verdure Piastra, which was essentially a big serving of farro topped with roasted veggies.

Verdure Piastra

And chef had to try their Green Pea Farrotto, as he’d just been talking about wanting to put a Farrotto on his own menu at Zeal.

Farrotto

The verdict? The Farrotto, which is essentially a risotto-style dish made with farro rather than rice, seemed to be rapidly prepared rather than slowly cooked the way this labor intensive dish is best made for a creamy, delectable experience. It seemed like pre-cooked farro was added to a pea broth rather than cooked in a broth over a long period of time. But, the flavor was good. The Verdure Piastra was a HUGE portion of food, yet priced the same as the Farrotto. This seemed off to us. And in the end, lunch cost $130 including tax and tip. That’s a pretty expensive lunch!

Piece- A Chicago Pizzeria and Brewery

The pizza renaissance or revolution that swept through Boulder and Denver a few years ago really sparked an interest in us to explore some of the original American pizza artisans (which brought us to The Original Frank Pepe Pizzeria, New Haven, CT) and some of our contemporary pizzaioli (Pizzicletta, Flagstaff, AZ). So, it only made sense that we’d end up in Chicago sooner rather than later.

Sean’s quite seasoned on Chicago dining, whereas I’d never been to The Windy City. He suggested we start off our long weekend at Piece for two reasons: #1- It’s a great pizzeria and brewery, winning many awards for its beer over the years. #2- He needed a new t-shirt as his old Piece shirt was stained.

I noticed as soon as we sat down that the menu says “New Haven Style Pizza,” so our September 2013 trip to Frank Pepe’s was clearly a good place to include in our pizza tasting journey.

Beer, Piece Pizzeria

We started off with a couple pints and then discussed the menu. We didn’t stick to our routine of trying the margherita pizza (or in this case, their “red” pizza). We went with a white pizza topped with roasted red peppers and basil.

Piece Pizzeria

Served on a sheet tray, this pizza is reminiscent of Frank Pepe’s and has a similar crackly thin crust, but, it’s less charred. I like that Piece acknowledges it’s east coast inspiration, and it’s clear that it’s doing something right as 2014 marks Piece’s thirteenth year in business.

Cheers to great pizza!

The Boulder Passport: BRU

Sean and I rode our bikes out to BRU Handbuilt Ales for our second Boulder Passport stamp. BRU is undoubtedly one of Boulder’s best restaurants, so it only made sense to get some food there as well.

BRU’s Boulder Passport deal is two-for-one pints of their house-brewed beers, so we both enjoyed a pint, a pickle platter, and a delicious Charred Leek and Arugula Pizza.

BRU pizza

Totally. Hit. The. Spot.

The Original Frank Pepe Pizzeria, New Haven, CT

I first heard of Pepe’s Pizzeria while guiding food tours, as we often visit Pizzeria Locale here in Boulder. Great pizzerias from all over the US are regularly discussed, and many of my guests have visited The Original Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana in New Haven, Connecticut. When Sean told me the route we were driving on our east coast tour was bringing us to Pepe’s, I was so excited I started thinking of Pepe’s every day.

If you haven’t heard of Pepe’s, check out their website and put it on your food map for your next New England adventure. I had no idea what to expect, but everyone had raved about this place. Upon walking in to the old-old-school pizzeria, I knew I was in for a treat. As the driver that day, I had a soda- totally unlike me, as I never drink flavored sodas, but, the menu said this soda has been served at Pepe’s since 1925, the year they opened.

The menu is straightforward.

We ordered a traditional margarita pizza (because that’s a good standard upon which to judge a pizzeria) and a white pizza with spinach, mushrooms, and gorgonzola. After ordering, I had to get a closer at their oven. Their entire wall was an oven!

The oven at Pepe’s is ENORMOUS! The entire bricked wall is the exterior of their oven. Those extra-extra-long pizza peels can reach all the way to the back of the oven. I snapped a few photos with the approval of the really nice pizzaioli. It was fun watching them work.

These pizza peels must be 10-12 feet long, and they maneuver them through the open kitchen as if they were the short ones we use at home.

The oven doors are closed, apparently, and opened for each pie.

One guy was having some fun with me and flexed his muscles…

 

But, back to the pizza. Our very large (medium-sized) pizzas arrived sizzling hot and we had to unfortunately wait a couple minutes before we could dive in.

The crust is thin and crunchy, the toppings are perfect… It’s just good pizza, plain and simple. Pepe’s presents a classic east coast style pizza you won’t find outside of New Haven. Just writing this makes me want to go back.

 

 

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