Eating Italy

“Where should I begin?” was my first thought as I entered Torino’s Eataly. The abundance of products and the many brand choices gave me an initial feeling of confusion; this feeling, however, was immediately lessened by the presence of the many signs indicating the different departments. I dare say that my first time here reminded me of my childhood, when my mother took me to a new toy store.

The Palate’s Market/Emporium 

With pasta, pizza, meats, fish, vegetables, wine, beer and much more, Eataly is truly a gastronomic amusement park. “High-quality food at tolerable prices” is what the company advertises. Eataly is in the same spot where the Carpano workshop had been located, and the place has not lost its identity. Starting with the informal ambience and the elegant minimalist design, following with the imposing architectural complex, the intention was to reinvent grocery shopping. Eataly is all that, but also a modern market that offers an old-fashioned scent, where one can push a recycled plastic cart from one stand to another and, at the same time, stop to eat something. Maybe it’s the tastes, the smells, the colors or the products’ quality, but the entrance to this great hall of taste is always very crowded.

From Predator to Prey

One Saturday evening, I decided to go there for pizza with some friends. The line was long and exhausting. I stood still on line for more than 30 minutes, within one yard of the tables. I could not talk with my friends nor move my eyes from the occupied seats, hoping to spot a free seat. The idea was to beat everyone else to the next available table. Once we sat, though, our role soon changed from predators to prey. The waiters reset the table and took our order quickly and politely. Our pizza was served within 10 minutes, and it was delicious. However, we were under other hunters’ scrutiny until the last morsel of pizza and the last drop of beer were consumed. Having someone’s eyes on you continually while eating is annoying and exhausting. You end up not enjoying the meal, feeling embarrassed and guilty.

A Dive Into Good Taste

Each eatery offers products that are sold only in this Torino food center. The location uses a monothematic arrangement, developed in seven informal eating sections, each dedicated to one food grouping: meats, cold cuts, cheeses, pastas, pizzas and focaccias, vegetables and fish, and tapas and beers.

Great Work in a Great Space

This project took three years of planning, beginning with the conception of the idea, the development of the design, the selections and the recruitment of suppliers. This great restoration work saved a historical industrial complex. The object was to develop a new way to distribute food goods and commercialize artisan products of high quality. The planners took inspiration from sustainable, responsible and sharable concepts. Eataly demonstrates that one can offer to a wider range of customers foods that are at the pinnacle of quality while retaining affordable prices—all while showcasing the production and the history of the manufacturers. This project has widereaching aspirations.

This article originally appeared in the March 2008 edition of Pizza&Food magazine. Read more articles in Italian at PMQ.com/italia.