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Eataly in Philly: Not a done deal

One of the partners confirms that the Italian megastore is considering a Philadelphia location but insists it's not certain.

Monday's big Philadelphia food news was a simple quote from Joe Bastianich - an owner of the star-studded Eataly empire - telling Chicago Reader that the Italian emporium was next bound for Philadelphia with a store.

Bastianich said a Philadelphia location was probably a year away.

So I contacted Eataly, whose execs are in Chicago, where the second U.S. store opened Monday.

Finally got Alex Saper, a managing partner, on the line. He and his brother Adam are the New York-bred entrepreneurs who brought Eataly to New York.

Saper poured a bit of acqua fredda on Bastianich's statement.

"We're extremely interested in Philadelphia," Saper said, declining to address Bastianich's statement. "We think it's a great city and we would love to be there, but we do not have a deal yet to go there."

As for Bastianich's quote: "It's hard for me to comment on that," he said.

He said Philadelphia was on a short list of other cities, including Boston, Los Angeles and Washington. Eataly wants to open about one large store a year for the next three or four years, he said.

"As soon as the right deal comes along, we will act upon it," he said.

As for a potential site, Saper said Eataly had "discussions with a lot of different groups."

Everyone I've talked to points to the ground floor of the former Strawbridge & Clothier store at 801 Market St., whose vastness would work. Eataly requires 40,000 to 70,000 square feet. (The Whole Foods store at 20th and Callowhill Streets has 30,000 square feet and Reading Terminal Market occupies 78,000 square feet, just as a point of comparison.)

PREIT, which owns the Strawbridge's space, has not returned numerous messages.