Eataly, Drink And Be Merry
Eataly’s Italian passeggiata marketplace experience expands its Toronto presence.
Worldwide Italian food marketplace sensation Eataly is building upon its success in Toronto by opening a second location, a 25,000-square-foot emporium at Sherway Gardens, making Toronto one of only two cities in North America with more than one of the Italian food meccas, with a third scheduled to open in early 2024.
“Toronto is where we want to be,” says Tommaso Brusò, CEO of Eataly North America. “The Greater Toronto Area is growing, and the people here have a great appreciation for good food.”
The Eataly concept is inspired by the Italian passeggiata, which sees Italians taking to the streets and piazzas at night to stroll and socialize, stopping at bars and shops along the way. Eataly brought this tradition indoors by offering a variety of restaurants, food and beverage counters, bakeries, retail shops and even a cooking school. Italian businessman Oscar Farinetti converted a closed vermouth factory in Turin, Italy, and opened the first Eataly in January 2007, and today the enterprise has more than 40 locations worldwide.
Eataly’s Toronto success is even more impressive when considering the hurdles its first location in the city, at the Manulife Centre on a high-end stretch of Bloor Street at the edge of Yorkville, had to overcome. Imagine planning a 50,000-square-foot retail experience for years — designing the space, sourcing the food and drink, hiring and training the staff — only to see everything come to a crashing halt just as it was getting started.
Toronto’s first Eataly opened on November 13, 2019. In March 2020, only four months later, a global pandemic shut it and almost everything else completely down as the lockdown began. But Eataly persevered and slowly reopened when restrictions were lifted, and today it is one of the leading retail destinations in the exclusive neighbourhood.
While the Sherway Gardens Eataly is 25,000 square feet, half the size of the Yorkville flagship location, it is equally impressive. The market boasts the enormous grocery selection for which Eataly is famous, a mozzarella lab, a cheesemonger, a deli, four quick-service counters for baked goods, coffee, gelato and pastries, as well as two sit-down restaurants. In the true passeggiata tradition, the entire space is licensed, meaning customers can sip a glass of fine wine while shopping.
Food-industry newcomer Brusò wants the Eataly experience to be authentic and fun — just like Italy. “I joined this industry very recently,” Brusò said in a recent interview with Dolce. “I came from fashion, and people asked why I changed industries, and I say it’s not true. We’re talking about the people industry ― we’re always talking to people, and that’s what attracted me. When you come to Italy, you come to Italy with an ‘I’ ― when you come to Eataly, I want everyone to experience the true Italian culture. That’s a strong part of our DNA. And what is important is our people, as we have a truly amazing, passionate team. At Eataly, we always want our guests to be part of a truly immersive Italian experience.”
Eataly’s Tommaso Brusò (Left) And Andrea Cipolloni Stand Proudly In The New Eataly, The Glorious Italian Food Emporium In Toronto’s Sherway Gardens | Photo By Lismery Loyola
“TORONTO IS WHERE WE WANT TO BE AS THE GTA IS GROWING AND THE PEOPLE HERE HAVE A GREAT APPRECIATION FOR GOOD FOOD.”
Eataly Sherway Gardens features 363 seats spread around the space in the restaurants and food counters, and a patio will add another 90 seats in the spring of 2024. Of course, you can’t think of Italy without cheese and cured meats, and its glass-encased island features about 200 different items, including 300-day-aged Gorgonzolas and rare Parmigiano Reggianos including Vacche Rosse, which is made from the milk of heritage-breed red cows.
Eataly also carries freshly flown-in mozzarella di bufala and burrata. For those who appreciate the freshest cheese, a stop at the mozzarella lab where fior di latte, burrata and stracciatella are made throughout the day is in order. The impressive cheese selection will change seasonally so that during the span of a year as many as 500 different varieties will be available.
The salumi section is a mix of cured meats from Ontario and Italy, including that country’s most famous prosciutto, some aged for up to 30 months, as well charcuterie-board musts like Rovagnati’s decadent Gran Biscotto al Tartufo, a truffle-studded prosciutto cotto.
For pasta lovers, more than 100 different dried pasta varieties are available, including gluten-free noodles and rare pasta shapes, as well as pasta flavoured with lemon, truffle, chili and cuttlefish ink. No one will go thirsty — the extensive wine selection is populated by about 500 labels with stock bottles from all 20 of Italy’s wine regions, including Tuscany (Brunello, Sangiovese) and Piedmont (Barolo, Nebbiolo). The marketplace also carries Italian amari, vermouth, aperitivi and spirits.
When asked what la dolce vita, the sweet life, means to him, Brusò, perhaps not unexpectedly, puts food high on the list. “Food is part of our lifestyle as you have to eat every day,” he says. “It’s important to enjoy that, enjoy what you do, enjoy making your food, and enjoy your family time, cooking and eating together — that’s la dolce vita for me.”
Brusò is one part connoisseur and one part raconteur of both Italian cooking and Italian life, which makes him the perfect commentator and observer of what Eataly means to the food experience in Toronto. “What I really like about Eataly is that it is not just about the food. It is about the traditions, of coming together and enjoying the lifestyle — that’s what I love about Eataly,” he says.
Good food, being together and enjoying Italian cultural traditions will be the continued recipe for success at Eataly Sherway Gardens.