Friday, June 29, 2012

Eataly - Roma

There are countless reasons to adore this railway-station-turned-food-emporium. Four floors of Italian delights have been drawing in tourists and locals alike ever since it opened a week ago. And I am told they have been streaming in the front door in droves every single evening.

The only way to get a few decent snaps of the offerings was to go during the Italy-Germany Euro Championship semi-final. It was empty. Loved it. It was essentially a private tour of food, books and maps. We strolled, marveled, and dreamed of the baskets-full of goodies that will be our future bounty. Now is just an evening reconnaissance.

Eataly is of course cornering the whole local aspect. With so many products made in-house - buffalo mozzarella, gelato, and it appears even some beers. Wine is sold by the liter straight from the barriques mounted on the wall. Nearly every food station displays maps of Italy with regional designations of the specific product type colourfuly delinieated.

One display is particularly useful, a calender wheel of seasonal veggies specific to the surrounding Lazio region. Speaking of veg, by the produce they have a cute box plot of salads and herbs by the window. This lead one Italian friend to comment, "these designers have been around. This is so not Italian." I am sure she is right. Considering the success of New York's Eataly, it is clear much has been learned and seems to be successfully applied. Hopefully it sticks around.

The space itself is really quite impressive. One friend from New York couldn't get over the size of this place. "The one in Manhattan is like one-eighteenth the size!"

There have been articles floating about for months now discussing the revitalization it hopes to bring to the

Ostiense area. The unused rail terminal has been compared to many nasty things, and it all comes down to it being an eyesore lurking over the horizon. A lot of PR has been put out by Eataly on how their previous locations have elevated struggling urban neighborhoods by setting up shop in brownfield sites. And a big injection of cash does make for a striking launch.

The first two floors house a range of food items, kitchen tools, books, and small snack areas. The third floor has some proper restaurants, and the fourth was a bit empty, as it contains rooms for cooking classes. Notices for culinary courses were in Italian, but I would imagine English language ones could be on offer in the future.

The open-plan style works quite well for the space, allowing visiters to wander freely about. It seems also a bit unique to have the kitchen/prep areas so open. Everything normally kept in the back of house is instead only seperated by panes of glass. Transparency of production ties in nicely with the local element being touted.

Eataly, we will be good friends.

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