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The highly anticipated Eataly culinary emporium will open to shoppers and diners at 5 p.m. Thursday at Westfield Valley Fair in Santa Clara. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group)
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How can you sum up a three-story, 45,000-square-foot food hall packed with 10,000 imported and fresh products and 1,200 bottles of wine?

Nicola Farinetti, the CEO of Eataly and son of the founder, says simply:

“We brought everything we love from Italy.”

His family’s culinary favorites have finally come to the Bay Area, 15 years after the company’s founding in Turin. Eataly Silicon Valley, which opened Thursday at Westfield Valley Fair on the Santa Clara/San Jose border, is the first for Northern California, the second on the West Coast, the ninth in North America.

And truly overwhelming. How can customers and diners navigate this epic emporium and all of its restaurants and food counters?

“Eataly is like a gallery where the producers are the artists, and the products are the pieces of art,” says Dino Borri, global VP for Eataly, whose view suggests you may need to approach it like a museumgoer making repeat visits to appreciate every exhibit. “Some times you are coming here to eat, some times you are coming here to shop and some times to have a coffee.”

Loaves of bread are displayed inside Eataly Silicon Valley during a media tour on June 8. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group) 

We toured the hall with Borri and other Eataly creators, managers and producers and asked about highlights and products rarely found in the Bay Area. We call it our asiago-to-ziti guide — yes, Eataly carries both — though you’ll be hard-pressed to pass up the more unusual selections offered here.

LEVEL 1

The take-away eateries are located on the ground level, giving customers easy access from the restaurant plaza. There is indoor seating as well as a patio.

Pizza alla Pala: Stop at this counter for squares of Roman-style pizza — thick crust, with a soft, airy interior. These pizzas are made from three types of stone-ground Piemonte flour, baked in an electric oven (as opposed to the wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas on the third floor) and served on a paddle, or pala. The classic Margherita (tomato, basil, mozzarella) and Capricciosa (ham, mushrooms, artichokes, mozzarella) versions will be available daily; the other combinations will change with the seasons and the whims of the pizzaioli. We saw one beauty draped with slices of mortadella, topped with dollops of fresh burrata and sprinkled with pistachios.

Good to know: Stefano Murialdo, managing director for Eataly Los Angeles, highly recommends you plan on leftovers. When you reheat slices of this Roman pizza, he says, the olive oil in the crust oozes out and crisps the exterior.

On Eataly’s first floor you’ll find Pizza alla Pala, with grab-and-go slices of Roman-style pizza — thick crust, soft interior, high-end toppings. (Bay Area News Group) 

La Gastronomia: Find grab-and-go entrees — lasagna, polpette — to heat and serve at home or bring back to the office. All are made onsite.

Caffe Lavazza: Turin-born Eataly has selected Lavazza, the Turin espresso specialist (since 1895), for the coffee counter, which opens at 8:30 a.m. daily. Besides offering a full lineup of hot and iced espresso beverages, Lavazza makes a rarely seen specialty drink, the Bicerin, which originated in Turin centuries ago. Layered with espresso, hot chocolate and whipped milk, it’s named for the small, round glass in which it was traditionally served.

La Pasticceria: Display cases of Italian pastries baked onsite are conveniently positioned next to the coffee bar. This is where you’ll also find cannoli filled to order and tiramisu. You’ll know those two are authentically Italian by the taste — they’re not as sweet as their American counterparts.

La Gelateria: The ice cream counter is in the hands of third-generation gelato chef Patrizia Pasqualetti, who brought her know-how from Umbria to the Bay Area. She and her crew will make gelato daily using organic milk from Straus Family Creamery of Petaluma and California fruit. Flavors will rotate seasonally.

Don’t miss: If you are a pistachio lover, the intensely flavored Pistachio Gelato is going to ruin you for any other pistachio dessert. Fair warning.

Cups of raspberry gelato await customers at the Gelateria inside Eataly Silicon Valley. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group) 

LEVEL 2

Eataly Vino

The second floor is devoted to wine and education. Eataly stocks more than 1,200 wines representing all 20 of Italy’s wine regions, from the high-elevation Aosta Valley in the northwest to Calabria and Sicily in the south, so you can find a wine that represents your ancestral home. Rare and collectible wines are housed in the temperature-controlled Riserva Room.

Good to know: In the coming months, the La Scuola cooking school space and tasting room will host Sip & Meet events with winemakers and offer educational seminars. Watch the website for updates.

THE MARKETPLACE

Salumi: In this cured-meats department, you can buy packaged sliced salumi, dry chubs of salami or 15-pound Prosciutto di Parma. The offerings here are supplemented by U.S.-made products because of the limitations on exportation. So besides Eataly’s packaged products and the cured meats (some aged as long as 36 or 48 months) check out the salami on the shelves made by artisanal producers in California, Oregon, Illinois, Massachusetts.

Don’t miss: What Borri calls the “king of salumi,” Culatta or Culattello, made its import debut to the United States only last year. Eataly cures and ages the best part of the pork leg for this product, he says.

In the Salumi e Formaggi departments, there’s a vast array of imported prosciutto and other cured meats. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group) 

Formaggi: Eataly carries up to 200 cheeses, from rare imports (like Sicily’s Piacentinu Ennese, yellow with saffron and studded with black peppercorns, and Bra Duro from the birthplace of the Slow Food movement) to huge wheels of aged Parmigiano-Reggiano and Grana Padano. U.S.-made cheeses, including top sellers from Cowgirl Creamery and Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese, round out the collection.

Don’t miss: The fresh, soft stracchino cheese. “Italians go nuts for this,” Borri says. It’s an Eataly exclusive.

Olive oil and vinegar: More than 100 Italian olive oils (all extra-virgin) representing 40 olive cultivars are on the shelves. Besides unusual single-origin cultivars and blends, Eataly stocks olive oils infused with truffle, garlic, chile, rosemary and other flavors. And we like the idea of those in colorful ceramic jugs and ceramics as host/hostess gifts. The vinegar selection includes red, white and aged balsamic, not just from Modena in Emilia-Romagna but also from Reggio-Emilia and Piemonte.

Good to know: If you find an olive oil you like — perhaps a mild, fruity one made from Taggiasca olives in Liguria — you can often find a jar of those olives in brine on a nearby shelf for your antipasti board.

Take your time to discover all that Eataly has to offer, Dino Borri, the company’s global VP, says. “Some times you are coming here to eat, some times you are coming here to shop and some times to have a coffee.” (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group) 

Pasta: Besides fresh pasta made daily here in myriad shapes, the marketplace carries 200-plus types of dried pasta, with an emphasis on brands whose pasta is extruded through a bronze mold and air-dried for 24 to 48 hours. That, the experts here say, ensures that the pasta has the perfect consistency to stick to sauce. The broad selection includes egg pasta, gluten-free choices, flavored pastas made with all natural ingredients and alternative grains, like rice quinoa spaghetti.

Don’t miss: Want to try an unusual shape? Borri suggests the Vesuvio, which resembles the volcano near Naples, Mt. Vesuvius. A few producers, including Afeltra, make this pasta.

Various types of pasta are displayed inside Eataly Silicon Valley during a media tour on June 8. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group) 

Hazelnuts/Gianduja: Row after row is devoted to Italy’s prized hazelnut and gianduja, the chocolate-hazelnut combination invented in Turin when chocolate was too expensive. You’ll find jars, bars, blends, pure “white” hazelnut spreads without chocolate, even the Leone company’s Gianduioso, gianduja cream in a handy squirt tube for the real hazelnut fiends. There are vegan and dairy-free versions of gianduja too.

Good to know: Gianduja is pronounced “jaan-DOO-yah.”

Chocolates: Eataly is carrying the Bay Area’s widest array of fine chocolates from Venchi, in business since 1878. The selection here is vast, ranging from individually wrapped chocolates (the “Cremino 1878” features a layer of white chocolate with almond paste between two layers of milk Gianduja made with Piedmont hazelnuts) to bars to gift boxes. An even bigger array will be featured from Christmas through Easter.

Don’t miss: Venchi’s bestseller is the Chocoviar 75, filled with extra-dark cream with extra virgin olive oil in a shell of 75% Cuor di cacao covered with beads of 75% dark chocolate. The beads, which look like caviar, gave rise to the name, says Michele Sbarigia, the retail operations manager for Venchi US.

Eataly offers a vast array of Venchi premium chocolates — the largest assortment in Northern California. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group) 

Fruits and vegetables: Naturally, California-sourced produce stars in this department. Eataly’s buyers have already contracted with Fred Hempel, the tomato-breeding genius of Green Bee Farms in Sunol, to purchase his summertime crop.

FRESH COUNTERS

La Mozzarella: At this demonstration lab, customers can watch fresh mozzarella made daily.

La Pescheria: Eataly has partnered with ABS Seafood of San Francisco, in business for 60 years, for daily hauls of fresh fish and seafood, all sustainably sourced. Look for California halibut, wild King salmon, prawns (Santa Barbara spot, wild king), Dungeness crab in season, whole or oven-ready branzino. You can buy whole fish or have the fishmongers clean and filet for you.

A San Francisco company curates and supplies the fresh fish and seafood counter. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group) 

La Macelleria: The butcher counter is stocked with high-end, hormone- and antibiotic-free steaks, chops and roasts from well-regarded U.S. producers such as Cream Co. of Oakland, Idaho’s Snake River Farms and Creekstone Farms of Kansas. We spotted Eataly’s porchetta and housemade meatballs to simmer in sauce. The summer selection also features housemade sausages and marinated steaks and kebabs for the grill.

La Pasta Fresca: In this open demonstration lab, you can watch the artisans transform flour, eggs and water into all manner of fresh pasta.

La Panetteria: Eataly will be baking bread all day long for its restaurants, counters and the market, using a mother yeast (“lievito madre”) from Piemonte and stone-ground flours from producers Mulino Marino in Piemonte and Molino Grassi in Emilia-Romagna.

Don’t miss: The Pane Otto Tondo (eight round) bread, which owes its name to its large, round shape and its shelf life. According to Eataly’s bakers, the large amount of yeast in the dough means it stays fresh for eight days. It’s made with natural stone-ground type 2 Buratto flour, rich in trace elements and water-soluble vitamins.

THE RESTAURANTS

TERRA

Eataly’s alfresco rooftop restaurant is built around a wood-burning Italian grill. Look for small plates — skewers of Arrosticini (lamb, beef or chicken) and Funghi Trombetta (king trumpet mushrooms drizzled with balsamic vinegar) — along with steak and fish entrees, housemade pasta, antipasti and grilled vegetables.

Terra, the rooftop restaurant at Eataly, serves dinner only (for now) and reservations are a must. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group) 

“Almost every dish touches the fire in some way,” Eataly managing partner Adam Saper says.

Dinner is served nightly starting at 5. This restaurant is reservations-only for now, and it’s already booked for the first few weeks.

Don’t miss: A gin-and-tonic, made with gin from the Amalfi coast, is the cocktail of choice here.

At the Terra alfresco bar, a Gin and Tonic made with Italian gin is the cocktail of choice. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group) 

La Pizza & La Pasta

Italy’s two culinary staples come together at this casual sit-down restaurant.

On the pizza side, trained pizzaiolis from Rossopomodoro, an Italian restaurant group that has partnered with Eataly, prepare the dough and leave it to rise for 24 hours before topping the rounds with the simplest of ingredients. Then two 900-degree, wood-burning ovens housed in glittering domes do their job. The result is traditional Neapolitan pizza in just 90 seconds.

Inside these glittering domes on Eataly’s third floor, Neapolitan-style pizzas are baked at 900 degrees for 90 seconds. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group) 

On the pasta side, the signature dish on the primo menu is Spaghetti al Pomodoro. “It is the simplest dish we make, but I think one of the best,” Saper says. Secondi, or main courses, include Tagliata di Manzo (seared, sliced steak) and Pollo alla Milanese.

Good to know: As with all Eataly dishes, this version of Spaghetti al Pomodoro can be re-created at home with ingredients stocked here. The tomatoes of choice? Datterino, a sweet and small plum tomato variety from Campania. The Così Com’è brand picks them by hand and jars them within hours of harvesting.

EATALY’S HOURS OF OPERATION

Eataly will be open daily with varying department hours. First floor: Caffe Lavazza and La Pasticceria, 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Pizza Alla Pala, La Gastronomia and La Gelateria, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Second floor: Wine store, 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Third floor: Eataly’s marketplace has the longest hours, from 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. most nights, until 11 on Friday-Saturday. Fresh counters, 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Restaurants: Terra, 5 to 9 p.m. most nights, until 9:30 Friday-Saturday. La Pizza & La Pasta, 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. most nights, until 9:30 Friday-Saturday. 2855 Stevens Creek Blvd., Santa Clara; www.eataly.com/us_en/stores/silicon-valley/

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