The most self-denying fashionistas at this year’s shows in Milan and New York may not have passed through its doors, and patrons in London and Paris will have to wait a while for the opportunity, but the stylish Eataly food stores are becoming firmly entrenched in the world’s most fashionable cities.
In 2007, with his friend and the co-founder of Slow Food Carlo Petrini, businessman Oscar Farinetti opened his first Eataly in an old Turin vermouth factory. The New York outpost (pictured) opened in 2010; now there are Eataly stores in Tokyo, São Paulo, Istanbul and Munich, as well as numerous locations in Italy itself.
The Madison Square store’s 50,000 sq ft offer a gargantuan range of artisanal produce, seven restaurants, sandwich stalls (including La Rosticceria, whose prime rib sandwich made from Kansas-reared Black Angus beef has become one of the city’s most popular lunch options) and a vast array of oils, pasta (freshly made Piemontese tajarin, for instance, deep yellow from copious egg yolks), cookbooks and kitchen equipment. Pancetta might come from New Jersey, brawn from San Francisco, blue cheese from Oregon. But much comes from Italy too: huge wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano, for example, or 36-month-old Parma ham, while the fish counter sells clams for spaghetti alla vongole and the butcher wild boar sausages and bistecca alla fiorentina.
Or, for those who prefer others to do the cooking, there is Manzo, Eataly’s smartest restaurant, where you might start your meal with homemade mozzarella dressed with hazelnuts, leeks and bacon, move on to a bowl of pappardelle with braised pork and radicchio and follow that with a tagliata of New York strip steak with oxtail sauce. Then, in classic Italian fashion, one might adjourn to the Lavazza coffee bar, and finish with an ice cream at the in-house gelateria.
Eataly Milan opened two years ago in the former Teatro Smeraldo, a brisk walk north of the fashion district, and has retained the building’s sense of drama. While it has stiff competition from the city’s classic cafés – two of which are now owned by fashion houses, the lovely Caffè Cova by LVMH and Pasticceria Marchesi by Prada – its Alice restaurant (pronounced a-LEE-chay, Italian for anchovy) has already won a Michelin star for chef Viviana Varese’s innovative seafood.
In London, Eataly’s collaboration with fashion mecca Selfridges is due to open later this year, while in Paris Italophiles will have to wait until 2018. In a global market awash with – like Prada knock-offs – cheap pasta sauces and olive oils of dubious provenance, the success of the Eataly concept is a triumph for real Italian food and its producers. Authenticity, it seems, is back in fashion.