Grab a reusable shopping bag, put on your stretchiest pants and get ready for a carb-induced food coma, because Eataly, the luxury Italian food hall, just landed in Toronto’s Yorkville neighbourhood. The 50,000 square foot location—the first in Canada and the brand’s 40th across the globe—spans three floors and offers over 10,000 local and imported products, plus restaurants, cafés, bars, takeout counters, a bakery and a cooking school. At each station, chefs are busy hand-rolling dough, shaping pasta and slinging pizzas into huge, gilded ovens. With so much to see, taste and do, where do you even start? From gourmet ingredients and sweet treats on tap to grab-and-go meals and cooking lessons, here are nine things not to miss at Toronto’s buzziest foodie destination.
There are four restaurants and seven other eateries
With four full-service restaurants, seven eateries, including a variety of grab-and-go counters that cater to the breakfast, lunch and dinner crowds, and a selection of cafés and bars, there’s options for everyone—and then some.
The standout is La Pizza & La Pasta, a laid-back joint that specializes in everyone’s favourite Italian dishes. In the open kitchen (there’s even a mirror on the ceiling that allows for a better view of the prepping counter!), traditional Neapolitan pizzas are baked in gilded wood-burning ovens for 90 seconds and emerge with a perfectly chewy crust. On the other side of the store, La Piazza—a sunny hang-out modelled after a traditional Italian town square—is the perfect place to catch up with friends over a salumi and cheese board or a glass of wine.
For those with a sweet tooth, La Pasticceria delights with an array of Italian cakes and pastries, including a tiramisu based on a recipe from the pastry chef’s nonna. There’s also a gelato bar that serves seasonal creamy concoctions made with dairy from an Ontario farm and a cannoli station where you can order a made-to-order sweet treat (or three) with your choice of ricotta, chocolate or candied fruit filling.
Three kinds of pizza (and they’re all delicious!)
While we’re partial to Neapolitan-style, especially when it’s baked in a golden oven, there are new pizza horizons to explore at Eataly Toronto. Pizza alla pala is a Roman-style pie piled high with fresh toppings and sold to-go by the slice. Commonly found in Italian bakeries, it’s somewhere between bread and pizza—the crust is made of a simple mix of flour, water, yeast and salt, which gives it a crunchier feel that makes for the perfect snack. To fuel up for your next shopping session, try the filling pizza al padellino, a thick, pan-fried variation served at La Piazza that originates from Turin, Eataly’s hometown.
Pasta made from scratch daily
If you crave homemade pasta but fear the mess, Eataly Toronto has you covered with ten to 15 different types of fresh pasta made daily. The offerings change seasonally, and you’ll see them reflected on the restaurants’ menus, as the pasta bar also supplies the store’s kitchens. While the butternut squash ravioli is a limited-edition fall favourite, it might make an appearance at the new location’s launch.
A hazelnut spread fountain
If you haven’t heard of Venchi before, you’re in for a treat—literally. The brand, known worldwide for its gourmet chocolates, has a shiny new kiosk at Eataly Toronto, where you can get a shot of soft, gooey hazelnut spread straight from a fountain. That’s right: a fountain of hazelnut spread. And the best way to eat it? Straight from the cup, with a spoon. That’s the Italian way.
A high-end market filled with imported and local ingredients
Displays brim with meat, seafood and produce from Ontario growers and makers, while nearby shelves are stocked with colourful boxes of panettone and Illy espresso beans. Around 70 percent of Eataly Toronto’s 10,000 products are imported from Italy, but Dino Borri, VP Global Partnership, explains that it’s important for the brand to celebrate the best ingredients each new location has to offer. “Toronto is an amazing foodie city,” he says. “We are an Italian company and we import as much as we can from Italy, but we want to be as local as we can when it comes to fresh products.”
An extra-virgin olive oil tasting station
When it comes to imported goods, none is more revered at Eataly than olive oil. There’s a floor-to-ceiling rack housing over a hundred different kinds of EVOO, complete with a tasting station where trained “storytellers” guide you through different flavour profiles. Turns out, choosing the right olive oil is not unlike choosing the right wine. “Every olive is different. We call it cultivars [which means “cultivated variety”], it’s the same as grapes for the wine,” says Borri. “Every cultivars has a different taste and this is why we created the tasting station.”
400+ types of cheese (yes, that’s right)
Eataly Toronto has over 400 different types of cheese on rotation, including imports from Italy and fresh cheeses from local suppliers. But it’s the wall of Parmigiano-Reggiano wheels that steals the show—each one is made with 500 litres of milk and worth just shy of $2,000.
A brewery (with a tiramisu-inspired beer!)
Long before it was home to designer boutiques and luxury hotels, Toronto’s swanky Yorkville neighborhood—then a residential suburb—was known for its breweries. To pay homage to the area’s history, Eataly called on Toronto’s Indie Ale House to run its in-house brewery, Birroteca. A selection of beers will be brewed on-site, including some flavours exclusive to Eataly—such as Indie Ale House’s first creation, an Italian pilsner called Bionda, which has a floral hoppy aroma and a crisp finish. There’s more to come, hints owner Jason Fisher, including the limited edition Dolce, a tiramisu-inspired “pastry stout.”
A Hands-On Cooking School
Eataly takes its customers’ culinary education very seriously. At La Scuola di Eataly, the in-house cooking school, guests have the opportunity to don an apron and learn how to cook authentic Italian dishes with ingredients from the marketplace through demonstrations and hands-on classes. A two-hour-long pasta-making class—which can be booked online—costs $80, while tickets to lessons from visiting world-renowned chefs are expected to sell for around $200 each. La Scuola also offers tasting events and walking tours of the market and restaurants that include exclusive food sampling.
On any given day, you’re likely to see someone hand-pulling mozzarella, carving a wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano, carefully arranging freshly-made pasta into a display case or pulling loaves of bread out of the oven. Shoppers are always encouraged to ask chefs, bakers, mozzarella and pasta makers about their products as they stroll through the store. Everything on offer at Eataly’s restaurants and takeout counters is made with ingredients sold in the store, so you can replicate the dishes you fall in love with at home—all you have to do is ask for the recipe.