Eatly brings a taste of Italy to Springfield

If your palette is craving a little slice of Italy here in Springfield, then Eatly, located at 601 N. Fountain Ave., is the place to go.

The well-traveled owner and Springfield native, Tom Thompson, wanted to bring some Italian flair and flavor to his hometown after researching his mother’s ancestry back to Sicily, Italy.

“I’ve always been in the restaurant business, in fact my parents owned a bakery in
Mechanicsburg growing up,” says Thompson, owner and chef at Eatly.

Thompson lived on his family farm for awhile before traveling the United States to work in the restaurant business in Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, New York and elsewhere before moving back to Springfield to take care of his parents, Teresa and Robert Thompson, who owned Daily Donuts in Mechanicsburg. 

“I had a restaurant in Worthington called Not Guilty, but I decided I wanted to get back to my Italian roots. I started traveling back and forth to Italy discovering my cousins and ancestors in Termini Imerese near Palermo in Sicily,” Thompson says. “We started sharing recipes, and so I decided to bring Italy here. I wanted to honor that tradition last summer and opened up a restaurant. The name Eatly, is a play on Italy. I want to carry on my Italian heritage with pride and passion and bring others and their loved ones the same feeling that I grew up with.”

Eatly, an American/Italian outdoor comfort café, just celebrated its one-year anniversary on Aug. 1. 

With seating for about 40 guests, the restaurant exudes a welcoming ambiance with an outdoor garden and old-time Italian music playing in the background. Adding to the Italian authenticity, be sure to check out the photos of Thompson's grandparents on the menus.

Quickly becoming a unique outdoor dining experience, Eatly is different than other restaurants in the area - with the kitchen and all the storage and refrigeration located outside. While outdoor restaurants are a trend popping up all over the United States, Thompson’s goal is to have an indoor kitchen and more indoor dining.

“The goal is to definitely expand at some point. I’m currently working on winterizing and adding indoor seating for clients and guests as well as enclosing my current outdoor kitchen so I won’t freeze to death,” he says. “Parts of the property could actually be converted into a regular restaurant since it’s a mixed property. We live in the Victorian house on the property and there is a commercial building attached that could be converted into a restaurant. So it’s not impossible, but I do like the outdoor environment for the restaurant.”

The Eatly property includes a greenhouse, which Thompson currently uses to grow his own herbs and vegetables that go into his homemade recipes, including bruschetta, garlic bread, marinara meatballs, salt and pepper calamari, pizza and subs. 

Current pasta dishes on the menu include sweet Sicilian tortellini alfredo, four-cheese ravioli, eggplant parmigiana, and lasagna.

Diners should also save some room for dessert, as Thompson serves up sweet treats that include a tasty tiramisu, Sicilian lemon crème torte, triple chocolate hazelnut torte, and red velvet butter crème.

Eatly is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, with Sunday brunch hours from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

Thompson plans to announce additional hours and menu changes in the near future, so stay tuned. He also hopes to become even more involved in the community through partnerships.

“I’m definitely working on my community involvement. We want to do more with Wittenberg (University), being that we are so close to it," Thompson says. "I also really appreciate the (Facebook) group Clark County Food Fiends. Their support has been tremendous.

"It’s a great group of positive and upbeat individuals, a well-respected group that is helping out local restaurants.”

To make a reservation at Eatly, visit www.StyleSeat.com/tomthompson or call or text 937-450-3337.

Read more articles by Cindy Holbrook.