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The volcanic, idealistic entrepreneur Oscar Farinetti has scored another goal. On June 21st, he opened the latest food store belonging to the Eataly group in Rome: the largest in the world, it’s his 18th location – which include cities like Tokyo and Manhattan – where Italy’s finest food products are proudly on display, from tagliatelle to the most exquisite extra-virgin olive oils.
Like all authentic innovations, Farinetti’s philosophy is disarmingly simple and puts into play three basic activities: eating, shopping, studying. Eataly’s spaces encourage all three of these actions, but the didactic element – with free food education courses – are truly inspired. In all of the world’s Eataly stores, young cooks can learn the difference between tinned tomatoes and fresh ones, and adults can learn to make tasty meals from affordable ingredients or even leftovers.
The factory built near Rome’s train station was constructed for the football championships in 1990 and has been waiting for a permanent purpose for years now. After more than two decades, the 17,000 square meter space over four stories is now the crowning glory of the Slow Food movement. Of course, eating is the first and foremost part of the Eataly experience. It’s hard to imagine any better place than this one, with 23 different food areas over three floors featuring everything from local produce purveyors to pasta, from the typical Emiliana piadina by the Maioli brothers to gelato by Lait. There are also special areas dedicated to the best Italian delicacies: buffalo mozzarella by Romano Battaglia, artisan beer, Venchi chocolate.
The cooks from Rome’s historical osterie are side by side with the most traditional dishes of the Lazio region. But the real novelty is the Show Cooking table by Whirlpool: starting in September, once a month, 12 world-famous cooks will cook a dinner for 10 lucky diners who can reserve a place online. For now, Eataly is keeping its culinary lineup secret – but has announced that prices will be set by auctions and the proceeds will be given to a different charity each time.
There are plans in the works for five other Eataly locations in Italy, four in the U.S., one in London and another three in Japan. The next opening is set for April 2013, when a special Eataly will open in the theater space of the legendary Teatro Smeraldo, and will be dedicated to music. “The project foresees a huge, emerald green stage suspended in mid-air where musicians will perform every night,” Farinetti explains. “Visitors can listen to music while eating the best pizza in the world.” In fact, each Eataly store is dedicated to a value or quality: “Doubt” for New York, and “Beauty” for Rome. “I thought of Amedeo Modigliani and the greatness of Italian art, music and irony – which is our national quality,” says Farinetti. In the Ristorante Italia in Eataly Roma, there are four authentic Modigliani paintings on display, thanks to the Modigliani Istitut Paris-Rome. The musical tribute is conveyed by screens on every floor showing symphonic concerts from the 18th Century onwards, as well as soundtracks from Italian films. And irony is celebrated with an exhibit called “Mangiarsi l’Italia”: one hundred satirical vignettes from 1861 until today.