Eataly and Vinitaly in New York

Above: Giovanni Mantovani (CEO VeronaFiere and Vinitaly), Oscar Farinetti (Italian retail, food, and wine tycoon, creator of Eataly), and Stevie Kim (senior adviser to Mr. Mantovani) yesterday at the opening of Bastianchi-Batali-Farinetti brainchild Eataly in New York.

Yesterday, mere moments after Mr. Franco Ziliani and I posted about the Italian agricultural minister’s claim that there is no crisis in the Italian wine industry, I spoke to Stevie Kim (above, right), senior adviser to Vinitaly’s CEO. She and her boss were attending the opening of the latest conquest in the ever-expanding Batali-Bastianich empire, Eataly, the “über-supermarket” conceived by retail tycoon Oscar Farinetti.

“As you know,” said Stevie, “production of Italian wines has increased dramatically in recent years and the Italian market is saturated. And so the international market has become more important for all producers.”

The Italian government, she told me, has asked her and her boss to “revamp” the Vinitaly road show, which has been coming to the U.S. for a decade (fyi Vinitaly is the top Italian wine industry annual trade fair, held each year in Verona in April). They plan to reconfigure the tasting this year, to be held at Eataly New York October 25, to accommodate trade and consumers.

“In the past, the presentation has been very fragmented. This year, we plan to restyle the tasting by transforming Eataly [New York] into Vinitaly,” said Stevie, who speaks impeccable Italian and has lived in Italy for more than 20 years. 50 producers will be attending this year’s road show, the maximum number Eataly New York can accommodate.

To Stevie I say, in bocca al lupo…

I’m not sure how I feel about Eataly (photo by Stevie). It seems to make more sense in New York than it does in Turin, where it started. It’s a sort of Disneyland for Italian food: a hyper-realistic food court, a recreation of an Italian food and wine street shopping scene. Surprisingly, in Piedmont, where “Italian food” is known simply as “food,” Eataly has been well received. At least, that’s my impression from talking to the Piedmontese. I’ve never visited Eataly, although Tracie P and I stopped once at the Eataly satellite on the road that leads from Alessandria to Asti.

There are Eataly franchises in Turin, Asti, Bologna, Milan, Tokyo, and now New York. Future expansion includes Genoa and Rome. Eataly enjoys the support of the SlowFood movement and its founder Carlo Petrini (however much the organization’s ethos would otherwise opposed globalization).

One thing you can say for certain about Eataly’s creator Mr. Farinetti: he’s no farniente!

5 thoughts on “Eataly and Vinitaly in New York

  1. I would second your mixed feelings, Jeremy. If I can pick up a 6-pack of pre-bottled Campari Sodas I’ll be happy, but naturally, I’m completely against the mallification of Italy and Italian food. The very concept of Eataly suggests that the rich culinary heritage of an overwhelmingly diverse nation can be squeezed into 60,000 sq.ft. of 23rd Street real estate.

    Generally speaking the involvement of Mario Batali in a project is enough to put me off. It’s a travesty that this man is the face (and body) of Italian cooking in this country: I certainly wouldn’t accept food from him. I read in the Village Voice that the Eataly staff also wears orange Crocs. Che vergogna.

  2. Jeremy, I am trying to get a scoop on the wine selection at Eataly (without physically going there just yet). Do you have any info? Are they going to basically do a super-market style, lower-end selection, or go deep into Italian premium wines that would satisfy a discerning wino? Any scoop on how wines will be procured there? (Direct from Italy, with attractive prices relative to standard 4-tier distribution model?)

  3. @JT I believe you aware of my thoughts or lack thereof regarding men in clogs.

    @Michele the empire is a boundless horizon! Like Ulysses, the clogged ones will venture forth beyond the nec plus ultra!

    @Gary I have one word for you: Biondivino… ;-)

  4. I just checked out Eataly this afternoon (it was on the way back from Staples). It’s well-priced but overall the selection was a tad disappointing. But I did buy some Menabrea and Lavazza Qualità Rossa in a can (both very rare). They don’t have a liquor license so I guess I’ll keep mixing my Campari Sodas myself. Thankfully employees appeared to have already reverted to more conventional footwear.

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