The Chicago outpost of Mario Batali's long-awaited food/wonder emporium, Eataly, is -- at long last -- almost open.

Crain's Chicago Business checked in on Eataly's progress and reports the multi-restaurant and upscale grocery store in the old ESPN Zone location in River North is slated to open at the end of November. Crain's says the new market is approximately the equivalent of five Trader Joe's and dwarfs the original Eataly in Manhattan.

Eater Chicago says the 63,000-square-foot space houses eight Italian-themed restaurants, a 150-seat pizza bar, a mozzarella bar and is also crammed with an array of specialty groceries -- including a $227.80 bottle of balsamic vinegar.

(Read Chicago Magazine's "What To Get At Eataly In Chicago This Fall")

With skyrocketing rents and stiff competition from grocers (Chicagoland mainstay Dominick's recently announced its departure from the Windy City market), business insiders are closely watching whether the celebrity-backed enterprise will sink or swim.

“The big challenge is to get patrons in River North to change their habits from where they are going now,” Darren Tristano, an executive vice president at restaurant consulting firm Technomic Inc. told Crain's. “Unless Eataly has a better experience and better value, patrons are going to go back to what they are accustomed to.”

Still, a recent study on the local grocery market from the Mid-America Real Estate Corp. indicates the recent boom of gourmet grocers a la Eataly, Whole Foods and Mariano's is only going to grow as the specialty stores look to take on supermarket chains like Jewel.

In 2013 alone, new grocers like Plum Market (Michigan), Mr. Greens's Natural Market (New York) and Fresh Thyme Farmers Market (Arizona) have either opened in Chicago or announced proposals to open.

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  • LOSER: Paula Deen

    <strong>Why?</strong> One word: <a href="">Victoza</a>. Deen was criticized harshly for <a href="">simultaneously announcing that she had diabetes and endorsing the diabetes medication</a> in January, after years of pushing unhealthy food. <strong>Glimmers of Hope for 2013:</strong> The scrum surrounding Deen at the beginning of the year made Deen more famous (or at the very least, notorious) than ever. And, apparently, more lucrative than ever: in July, Forbes reported that she had <a href="">made $17 million</a> in the past year.

  • WINNER: Jamie Oliver

    <strong>Why?</strong> He started a <a href="">new magazine</a>, got his own <a href="">day</a> of the year and <a href="">brought down pink slime</a>. <strong>Causes for Concern in 2013:</strong> <a href="">Some people</a> think his campaign against pink slime <a href="">was wrong-headed</a>.

  • WINNER: David Chang

    <strong>Why?</strong> Chang opened an outpost of his <a href="">ever-growing Momofuku empire</a> in a third country -- Canada -- this year. His financial success hasn't come at the expense of critical praise. He was nominated for the James Beard Award for outstanding chef and his sweets deputy Christina Tosi won the award for Best Rising Chef. And he also got a little more well-known personally this year, thanks to a starring role in the first season of Anthony Bourdain's food show "The Mind of a Chef." <strong>Causes for Concern in 2013:</strong> The biggest challenge for any emperor-chef is to maintain high quality at locations spread throughout the world. Chang seems to have a good record to letting his Chefs de Cuisine feel empowered in their kitchens and support his independence, but there's always the possibility of a dud.

  • LOSER: Gordon Ramsay

    <strong>Why?</strong> When it comes to the <a href="">"MasterChef" host</a>, where to begin? Maybe with the Dubai restaurant he "severed ties with" in Maybe with the time he slimily <a href="">stole a restaurant name from Mario Batali</a>? Or the time he was sued by his father-in-law's mistress for <a href="">hiring a detective to stalk her</a>? <strong>Glimmers of Hope for 2013:</strong> Like Paula Deen, Ramsay still <a href="">makes a whole lot of money</a>.

  • WINNER: Mario Batali

    <strong>Why?</strong> Batali's flagship New York restaurants Babbo and Del Posto are sailing smoothly, his talk show "The Chew" is still on the air and his grocery store <a href="">Eataly grossed $70 million</a> in its first year after opening. <strong>Causes for Concern in 2013:</strong> We've been hearing some reports of quality control issues at some restaurants in the periphery of his empire.

  • LOSER: Guy Fieri

    <strong>Why?</strong> "<a href="">Some combination of radiator fluid and formaldehyde.</a>" <strong>Glimmers of Hope for 2013:</strong> Apparently some people are <a href="">visiting Guy's American Kitchen & Bar "ironically."</a>

  • WINNER: Daniel Humm

    <strong>Why?</strong> Young Humm skyrocketed this fame in 2012 after years toiling in relative obscurity. In the past year, he and his business partner Will Guidara opened a second restaurant, the NoMad, a few blocks away from their three-Michelin-starred flagship Eleven Madison Park and he won the coveted James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef. It didn't hurt that both the <a href="">New Yorker</a> and the <a href="">New York Times</a> gave him tons of adoring press over the past 12 months. <strong>Causes for Concern in 2013:</strong> Humm hasn't been in the game long enough to guarantee a strong career for decades -- so he has to be sure not to gamble too hard with the success he's found. And to be <a href="">wary of magicians</a>.

  • WINNER: Anthony Bourdain

    <strong>Why?</strong> Despite inciting plenty of controversy, almost all year long, Bourdain emerged victorious by the end of 2012, if for no other reason than that he's in the midst of launching three new food shows on <a href="">three different channels</a>. <strong>Causes for Concern in 2013:</strong> At some point, Bourdain could pick a fight with the wrong enemy. Things could get very ugly fast.

  • LOSER: Martha Stewart

    <strong>Why?</strong> The former queen of America's linen closets just hasn't been able to retrieve her crown since going to jail, honestly. Trouble in 2012 came in the form of <a href="">a brutal New York Times article</a> dissing her influence on her company, which has saw <a href="">huge layoffs this fall</a>. Plus <a href="">a lawsuit</a> alleging she falsely represented the city of manufacture of a knife line she produced. <strong>Glimmers of Hope for 2013:</strong> She's apparently <a href="">really popular in Brooklyn</a>?

  • WINNER: Eric Ripert

    <strong>Why?</strong> Ripert is still one of the most highly respected chefs in country, but this year, he stepped out from behind the range like never before, <a href="">releasing a chocolate bar in collaboration with Anthony Bourdain</a> and appearing in a new YouTube series. Plus his restaurant Le Bernardin got a spiffy renovation that won it the James Beard Award for <a href="">Outstanding Restaurant Design</a> and prompted <a href="">Pete Wells to renew the restaurant's four-star rating</a> in the New York Times. <strong>Causes for Concern in 2013:</strong> He <a href="">cut ties with his restaurants in DC and Philadelphia this year</a>... are there business problems beneath his impeccable culinary veneer?

  • WINNER: Giada DeLaurentiis

    <strong>Why?</strong> DeLaurentiis started off the year with a bang by preparing all the food for several high-profile Golden Globe parties, and she continued strong (if not all that high-profile) for the next 11 months, signing <a href="">a mondo contract with Clairol Natural Instincts</a> and announcing that she was starting <a href="">a new daytime talk show with Bobby Flay</a>. Plus she appeared on <a href="">HuffPost Live</a>! <strong>Causes for Concern in 2013:</strong> Nothing we can think of, frankly.

  • LOSER: Todd English

    <strong>Why?</strong> We're tempted to say "just search his name on Google News," but it turns out that that doesn't actually paint the grim picture we have in mind. So instead, just <a href="">read this article</a>. <strong>Glimmers of Hope for 2013:</strong> Some of his restaurants are still popular -- and he's <a href="">opening restaurants</a> almost as fast as he's <a href="">closing them</a>.