The latest Eataly culinary hub in Milan is a temple of tasty delights dedicated to music. Just don’t call it a chain, emphasized founder Oscar Farinetti.
“I abhor clones, locations replicated with the same references and prices. We are not Starbucks or McDonald’s,” said Farinetti during a walk-through of the 54,000-square-foot unit located in a former theater, the Smeraldo, which also gives its name to the locale, a few steps away from the trendy street Corso Como. “Eataly venues are like siblings with the same surname, but each with a different personality.”
To honor the storied past of the Smeraldo, set up in 1942 and where artists from Ray Charles to Bob Dylan performed, Farinetti insisted a stage be positioned on the second level looking onto the entrance. “Guests will be able to listen to live music each evening. We are re-creating the 18th-century popular theater, where people would eat, walk and talk as artists were on the stage. This is a place of shows — even bread dough rising is a show in itself,” exclaimed Farinetti enthusiastically.
The newest Eataly was officially unveiled on Tuesday, which Farinetti chose in order to commemorate the first of the Five Days of Milan in 1848, a rebellion that drove commander Josef Radetzky and his Austrian soldiers away from the city — a crucial insurrection that was part of the 19th-century movement for Italian unification called the Risorgimento (“Rising Again” in English).
“I wanted to open last year on April 25 [Italy’s Liberation Day at the end of World War II in 1945] in honor of my father, a partisan, but that wasn’t possible, so March 18 is fitting, a metaphor of Italy’s need to rise again now,” said Farinetti, pointing to the country’s efforts to restart its economy. He proudly claimed to have hired almost 400 people at the Smeraldo unit.
Covering three levels and two additional underground floors for stocking merchandise and technical and service purposes, Eataly is bound to cater to any need with its 19 eateries. Fresh fruit, ice cream made with Alpine milk at Lait, a pastry shop, Lavazza coffee and Venchi chocolate stand on one side of the ground floor, after a selection of books and kitchen accessories and opposite freshly baked bread and pizza. Pasta made by hand can be purchased on the first floor, as well as cheese, including hand-rolled mozzarella, and hams.
On the second floor are fish and meat, Vergnano coffee, a winery, two cooking schools and the one-star Michelin restaurant Alice, headed by chef Viviana Varese. Accommodating 50 guests, the wooden tables made with rowing poles recovered from the Venice lagoon or kauri from New Zealand are designed by Renzo and Matteo Piano, completed by Knoll “Tulip” chairs designed by Eero Saarinen and iGuzzini lighting. Another feature is the so-called “Social Table” seating 12 placed in front of the Molteni kitchen and meant as a meeting spot with surprise menus and wine.
A convention center is on the third floor.
Farinetti touted Italy’s “microclimates,” which allow the country to produce its special Parma ham or the pasta from Gragnano, near Naples, “closed in by the Vesuvius volcano and the sea,” for example.
Asked for his own favorite dish, Farinetti quickly responded, “Risotto Milanese and cotoletta [veal cutlet]. The rice should respond to the four s’s: sano saporito sodo e separato [healthy, tasty, hard and each grain should be separate].”
Milan is gearing up for Expo 2015, and Farinetti won’t be found unprepared. “We are looking ahead at the Expo, with a pavilion covering 8,000 square meters [86,100 square feet], 20 regional restaurants with a spectacular offer of typical dishes with DOP [protected designation of origin] ingredients, which will exalt the biodiversity of our cuisine and agricultural products — our real leadership in the world.”
The first Eataly opened in Turin in January 2007. Today there are 25 units around the world, 11 of which are in Italy, with others in cities ranging from Tokyo and New York to Chicago, Dubai and Istanbul. As much as a gastronomic paradise, Eataly is a major business, with revenues of around 400 million euros, or $556.8 million at current exchange. And its expansion continues: Eataly venues are slated to open soon in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Paris, London and São Paulo.
Piazza XXV Aprile, 10
Open every day from 10 a.m. to midnight