Benvenuto a Eataly
In the midst of a fast-paced lifestyle where drive-thrus are more ubiquitous than grocery stores, places like Eataly feel like a home away from home.
In search of dinner, a friend and I recently ventured to a new local restaurant called Eataly. Part food emporium, part restaurant, and part farmer’s market, Eataly’s extensive food selection was wonderfully overwhelming. Every turn offered a new experience: I perused the shelves stacked with dozens of antipasti options, walked a few steps over to the fire roasted pizzas, until I inevitably followed the intoxicating aroma of freshly buttered crepes sprinkled with brown sugar and freshly squeezed lemon juice.
Eataly was founded in 2004 by Oscar Frenetti. The first location opened in a defunct vermouth warehouse in Turin, Italy. The endless lines of stalls filled to the brim with fresh produce, meats, and cheeses harken back to the time when open air markets were the norm. Visitors may notice its shared similarities with other European markets, such as Mercato Centrale, in Florence dating back to the 19th century. The two-story market located near the Basilica di San Lorenzo has been offering traditional Tuscan food to visitors and locals for over 100 years. It’s this rich tradition of Italian gastronomy that Eataly seeks to tap into.
The main endeavor of Eataly is to create a shared space where people can come together to enjoy and learn about the history of Italian cuisine. This sense of community is supported by the manifold gastronomic activities offered on site, everything from Pasta 101 cooking classes that teach the art of homemade tagliatelle or taking part in a game of bocce (supposedly, the oldest known sport in the world, which can be traced back to ancient Rome.) The underlying theory is that in order to truly enjoy the food on our plates, we have to appreciate it first. This entails taking the time to learn about the history, the ingredients, and the years-old traditions that are preserved in the dish. The idea comes home to me when I recall my grandmother’s bread pudding; I know every single step involved and am privy to how it has evolved over the years to accommodate family members’ tastes or the ingredients in her pantry.
Eataly's most recent project is the self-described “farm park” in Bologna, showcasing food production from start to finish. Farms and factories on 20 acres of land reveal how ingredients are grown, harvested, and produced. For now, this impressive project is exclusive to Italy, however, there are 31 traditional Eataly locations around the world including Japan, Istanbul, and Moscow. In the United States, Eataly can be found in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York. For everyone living outside driving range of an Eataly location, its website offers a truly impressive selection of Italian food, drinks, and sweets. Unsurprisingly, I spent well over 30 minutes browsing the mouthwatering assortment of Italian confections and looking through an exhaustive selection of extra virgin olive oil.
Historically, food has served to facilitate authentic encounter and foster gratitude. Jesus’s first miracles centered around food and wine, while both are still at the heart of the Mass. Food and wine continue to build community and appreciation. In the midst of a fast-paced lifestyle, where drive-thrus are more ubiquitous than grocery stores, places like Eataly feel like a home away from home. Ultimately, it serves as a powerful and much needed reminder of the beauty of slowing down and savoring the present (delicious) moment.