by Trina Hendry

Two of my favorite places—California and Italy—became one this past weekend when Eataly, the Mario Batali-led Italian marketplace, opened in Los Angeles at the Westfield Century City shopping mall. To say it debuted to much fanfare would be a massive understatement, as thousands of Angelenos have lined up for sometimes hours to enter the store. It has drawn such huge crowds that the store's Twitter feed uses a pepper-themed "line-o-meter" to advise customers on wait times. 

Hello California Eataly Los Angeles California Travel Blog

So, what is all the fuss about?

Well, for starters, it is the first West Coast outpost for the chain, which currently operates 39 marketplaces worldwide, including five in the U.S. and one slated to open in Toronto, Canada in 2019. Second, it is three levels and 67,000 square feet of true Italian culinary passion—meaning there is an abundance of places to eat, sip and discover the taste of Italy. But, for the first time ever, it also showcases local products, like wines, charcuterie, and fresh seafood plucked straight from the Pacific Ocean. Finally, the custom-built space was designed specifically with a California vibe in mind, with its bright, airy layout, stunning L.A. views as the backdrop, and laid back, friendly approach.

For those of you who haven't been, Eataly is a food lover's emporium where almost everything is imported from, or pays homage to, Italy—think, small-batched olive oils and wines, parmesan cheese wheels and fresh pulled mozzarella, canned goods, aisles upon aisles of pasta (literally!) and other specialty Italian food products. 

Shoppers with a serious appetite also take delight in the three restaurants housed within the space—La Pizza La Pasta (self explanatory), Il Pesce Cucina (seafood-focused) and the still-in-the-works, Terra, featuring a rooftop patio with 150 seats and the most incredible views—as well as La Piazza, nine hot food counters, an all-day cafe, and a cooking school overseen by the mamalucci of Italian cooking herself, Lidia Bastianich, which begins teaching classes on November 20. Mama mia! 

As if the Los Angeles opening weren't exciting enough, Eataly World, a massive Italian food theme park, dubbed the "Disneyland of food," is on track to open in Bologna, Italy on November 15!