Inside the Bay Area’s vast temple of Italian food and drink

Welcome to Eataly, where gold-gleaming pizza ovens burn at 900 degrees, cheese is made fresh daily in a mozzarella lab and an entire floor is devoted to Italian wines.

In other words, it’s Italian food heaven, and it’s finally here. The epic, three-story Italian food hall’s first Bay Area location opens at the Westfield Valley Fair mall in San Jose at 5 pm on June 16. If the yearslong anticipation is any indication, there will likely be throngs of people waiting in line. With two restaurants, a cafe, gelato shop, bakery, butcher, seafood counter and market stocked with thousands of imported Italian goods, there is no other food hall like it in Northern California.

This marks the eighth US location and 41st location worldwide for Eataly. Its first store opened in Torino, Italy, in 2007.

The Chronicle got a first look inside the Bay Area Eataly. Here’s everything you need to know to navigate the vast temple to Italian cuisine.

Molly Oliverio, head of fresh product operations, makes mozzarella at Eataly in the Westfield Valley Fair mall in San Jose on Wednesday, June 8, 2022.

Constanza Hevia H./Special to The Chronicle

There are seven places to grab a meal or a snack.

The top floor is home to two of Eataly’s standard restaurants. Head to La Pizza & La Pasta for Neopolitan pizza that cooks in 90 seconds in those massive wood-burning ovens as well as fresh pasta.

The menu hasn’t been finalized, but it will be similar to other locations. Expect snacks like arancini and roasted peppers with house-made burrata; and pizzas topped with buffalo mozzarella, 18-month aged Parmigiano-Reggiano and prosciutto. Many kinds of pasta are made fresh at Eataly, but the kitchen also uses dried pasta from Gragnano, a small coastal town in the Campania region known as Italy’s dried pasta capital. The 210-seat modern restaurant has its own outdoor terrace.

The rooftop bar at Terra, one of two restaurants at Eataly's first Bay Area location.

The rooftop bar at Terra, one of two restaurants at Eataly’s first Bay Area location.

Constanza Hevia H./Special to The Chronicle

On the other side is Terra, where everything is cooked on a wood-burning grill: tomatoes, steak, broccolini, bigeye tuna. Don’t miss the grilled Pugliese-style skewers, like a meaty combination of pork, mortadella and provolone. The 180-seat restaurant has an indoor-outdoor feel thanks to hanging plants and floor-to-ceiling windows that open onto a rooftop terrace. (There’s also an outdoor lounge here with its own menu, geared toward grabbing a casual drink and snack.)

Down on the first floor are Eataly’s more casual food options. Dino Borri, Eataly’s global vice president of brand partnerships, said the company wants this area to evoke the feel of an Italian piazza. Grab an espresso from the coffee bar (Italy uses Italian Lavazza beans) and a cannoli that’s filled to order. A gelato counter will eventually boast as many as 20 flavors, made fresh daily with Straus Family Creamery milk, Italian pistachios and local produce like strawberries from Watsonville’s Tomatero Farm. Or sip on a glass of Italian wine with slices of Roman-style pizza dolloped with burrata. There’s indoor and outdoor seating.