I now know the sound of a hundred bottles of sparkling wine breaking, which is something like WHOMP-fwaaaaaaaaaAAAAAHHHHH-zzzzzzzzzzzhhhhhhhhh. Though I felt sorry for the Eataly staffers who’d set up a grand display of the stuff only to watch it come crashing down minutes later, I, like every other patron eating downstairs in the River North emporium that day, found myself mesmerized by the effervescent foam spreading over the floor.
I guess I got what I came for. Namely, the relentless bustle and energy of Eataly’s downstairs shopping area, away from the market’s formal restaurants. I appreciate the space even more now that the panini stall has been replaced with Ravioli & Co, a quick-service restaurant serving a trim selection of cooked-to-order fresh pasta. In a town with plenty of great expensive pasta but a lot of mediocre cheap stuff, this spot fills a need.
The menu features two stuffed varieties: prosciutto ravioli in butter sauce ($12) and rectangular quadrati ($9) stuffed with ricotta and chopped spinach and tossed in a bright tomato passata with basil. The latter will make you think of that fine lunch you stumbled on — not too big, not too expensive — at some no-name café in Rome. The tagliatelle alla Bolognese ($14) may not make your top 10 for this classic, but the suppleness of the semolina pasta, along with the bits of vegetable in the meat sauce, is righteous, as is the final dusting of true Parmigiano-Reggiano.
All pastas come with a tidy square of focaccia wrapped in butcher paper like a little gift, and you can add on a glass of one of 10 Italian vinos (like a bright, tart verdicchio for $11) to round out the meal. Depending on the commotion in the store, you may need one.