Those that have had the pleasure of visiting Italy know that the food is one of the many amazing aspects of the country. Having spent an accumulated 4 months in Italy, I can attest to the fact that the culture around food is one of the many things I miss about the beautiful country. It isn’t that the grocery stores are bigger, better, or have more selection; there is just a ‘je ne sais quoi’ about the whole experience. It is almost as if each dish is cooked with love and you can find fresh, local food at one of the many farmers markets or grocery stores. The entire atmosphere around food is unique to the typical big box American supermarket experience. This is one of the reasons coming home each time is so hard and the prospect of visiting again is so exciting. Luckily, a group of entrepreneurs are changing this and creating an opportunity for Americans to experience shopping at an authentic upscale Italian grocery store, but in America.

“The unique part about Eataly is that you can not only shop for all types of Italian goodies, but you can also enjoy an incredible mouthwatering experience at each of the themed restaurants they have incorporated into enormous space. Being at Eataly is reminiscent of the boisterous Italian life that Fellini exemplified in La Dolce Vita. After living in Italy for six months, this is as close as I can get to eating authentic Italian food that instantly transports me back to Rome.” – Gabija Butkeviciute, New York City resident.

Eataly was officially founded in Turin, Italy in 2007 by Oscar Farinetti. His goal was to make high quality Italian foods available at a good price in a place where customers could shop, eat and learn. He later partnered with B&B Hospitality Group (Joe Bastianich, Lidia Bastianich, and Mario Batali) and together their goal was to make sure the emphasis in each store was “living life to its absolute fullest.” And who can we thank for bringing this masterpiece to America? That would be the Saper brothers. It was by luck that Adam Saper met Farinetti and the two, along with Adam’s brother Alex and B&B, quickly formed a partnership to bring Eataly to the US. The company now has locations in Italy, Japan, Dubai, Istanbul and the US (Chicago and NYC). A second location in NYC is set to open in the New World Trade Center and the Eataly owner’s state that they are looking to expand in the US over the next few years.

Entrepreneur quoted Alex Saper, “Our main goal—which goes back to the Slow Food philosophy—is ‘buono, pulito e giusto,’ which is ‘good, clean and fair. The product has to taste good. It has to be produced in a clean, sustainable manner. And the people making the product have to be paid a fair wage. There’s a huge buying team in Italy that works with us to find some of these producers. We did five or six years of research just to put together all of these products.” Each store has a large selection of Italian pastas, sauces, meats, desserts, of course coffee, and several restaurants. The stores also make many of the foods in house, has an extensive wine selection, and goes above and beyond to provide as much information as possible as to where the food comes from.

While any grocery store’s website can make it look amazing, what’s better than reading reviews online? Firsthand accounts. Fortunately I was lucky enough to experience the Eataly in Milan, Italy this past November. While I was only in the store to meet a friend for coffee, it was easy to understand why the store has become such a popular destination. In a way, Eataly is almost the Italian version of Whole Foods, but 100x’s better, and places more emphasis on where the food comes from and has more dining options. To get a better understanding of the store, I spoke with Brad Schnitzer, a local of Chicago. He perfectly sums up why it is a unique, special destination that is a company to watch in 2015.

                “What’s cool about the one in Chicago is it’s huge, it used to be ESPN Zone…it’s literally the biggest place I’ve ever been in. The first floor is a Nutella stand and also desserts, but also on the other side you can buy fresh groceries, pastas, olive oils, and anything straight from Italy. Then you go upstairs and that’s where the restaurants are. The first time I went, I went on a double date. There’s five or six restaurants in an area and what you are supposed to do is put your name into one place, then go to the wine or cheese boards, or places for appetizers and while you’re waiting for your restaurant you go to the little stations. So when we went we hopped around to all the restaurants. It’s more about the experience than anything else. The food is unbelievable. For a date it’s probably the coolest place you could take a girl. If you’re nervous for a date there’s so much to do, so you don’t have to worry. There’s everything from Italy you can buy. What I like the most about it is how you are able to try so many new things. That’s probably the coolest part. So basically you eat really good food and come back with a bunch of stuff. It’s just… it’s just incredible.”