Eataly and Italian Culture

Of the multitude of cultures represented in New York City, Italian is a predominant one. There is a plethora of restaurants, bakeries, food shops and markets in the city, one of which is the food market, Fabbrica Italiana Contadina (FICO) Eataly, which has two locations in Manhattan. The first of these markets was opened in Torino, Italy by Oscar Farinetti, whose goal was to make high quality food more accessible Italians everywhere and provide a place for them to learn the art of cooking. The company then branched out into America in New York with the support of Italian celebrity chefs Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich and Lidia Matticchio Bastianich who curate the shops and in the market. These include fresh pasta shops, wine tasting stores, chocolate displays and anything else that is traditionally Italian. Additionally, the company is headed by Adam and Alex Saper, who are both American born, but fell in love with the culture on their trips to Italy as children and hoped to spread it world-wide.  Customers in the New York locations are told that they will get a “taste of Italy” when in Eataly. Despite claiming and attempting to adhere to Italian culture as is done in Italy, some aspects of the marketplace contradict Italian traditions.

Though much of the food produced in Eataly closely resembles that of Italy, the way the market is presented is evidently different from Italian culture. Both Eataly locations in New York are over 48, 000 square feet in size and house hundreds of food providers, many of which are big name brands or owned by larger companies. The Nutella Bar in the Flatiron location is one of the most popular large company brands in the location. Many of the items sold are on the more expensive side or are brands created by Batali, Bastianich or Bastianich. Bloggers and journalists often refer to the experience of coming to the marketplace as “fancy” or “trendy”. According to the Eataly Manifesto, the purpose of the market is to “enter a world dedicated to quality: that means quality food, quality drink, and ultimately, quality time.” In Italy, such food markets are typically smaller in size and the vendors are smaller, local businesses that serve a smaller population of people. The markets provide whole foods for the comminutes that surround them, and are not extravagant. Experiencing the feel of an Italian market is not possible when it is presented on such a large scale and filled with products that are deemed “artisanal” and “gourmet”.

In addition, Eataly stresses the need for fresh and quality food in all their locations. In a Bloomberg Food & Drink report, the concept of Eataly World is detailed. This will be a 20-acre farm, orchard, restaurant and food market megastore. Eataly’s full name, Fabbrica Italiana Contadina, which translates into Italian Farming Company, is taken into account literally. The plan for Eataly World is to use the food grown from the gardens and animals raised on the farms to be the source for restaurants and shops. These animals are of the highest quality and produce “elite” meats, such as bistecca alla Florentina. Even the animals that will be raised in Eataly are to be of the highest quality, which in this case is also the most expensive. This concept is then to be brought into other Eataly locations, including the New York World Trade Center, in that produce will be grown on location. Even though the expectation here is to bring in locally grown produce and humanely raised animals into the restaurants, it is still done in a way that is more lavish than what is typical in Italy.

These brands and experiences are loved by the millions of people who go to the two New York Eataly locations every year. Having such a large assortment of Italian food options under one roof is appealing to many, as it offers something that individual restaurants cannot provide. A major appeal to a food emporium, according to Anthony Bourdain, is the availability of so many different options and types of food that will accommodate any taste. Bourdain emphasizes the need for this food to remain made by individuals, and not become a corporate oriented hall. The success of Eataly in New York prompted the announcement of more marketplaces opening, offering different cultural cuisines, following in the footsteps of Eataly. Chef Jose Andres revealed that he will be opening a Spanish food hall in Hudson Yards on the West Side of Manhattan. He stated that the market will be a “fresh, groundbreaking take on the food hall concept featuring the very best that Spain has to offer.”, which is a very similar concept to Eataly. More celebrity chefs have announced that they will be opening markets in New York as well, such as Bourdain and Michael Mina. New Yorkers and those visiting New York have proven that they seek cuisine that is perceived and marketed as authentic, and want many choices in that cuisine.

Overall, Eataly presents Italian culture through a fashionable and consumer friendly lens. Italian food culture is based on simplicity of ingredients and process, but that is not done in Eataly, which is clearly more extravagant and fancy. The hundreds of options accommodate for every taste and are approachable by people of all backgrounds. Though the food is not always exactly as would be made in Italy, the Eataly brand has a strong customer base. The popularity of Eataly has pushed other big name chefs to continue the trend of food markets in New York, catering to the want of New Yorkers to have a special experience along with a taste of a perceivably authentic culture.

Fabbrica Italiana Contadina Eataly. “Partners & Collaborators.” Eataly. N.p., 28 Nov. 2016. Web. 17 May 2017

Krader, Kate. “FICO Eataly World Revealed, Bologna, Italy.” Bloomberg, 17 Nov. 2016. Web. 16 May 2017. .

Krystal, Becky. “The Eataly Effect: Why José Andrés and Other Top Chefs Keep Building Food Halls.” The Washington Post. WP Company, 09 May 2017. Web. 17 May 2017.

Sifton, Sam. “Eataly Offers Italy by the Ounce.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 19 Oct. 2010. Web. 17 May 2017.

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