By Gordon Sorlini

17 marzo, 19:00
EATALY OPENS MILAN FLAGSHIP LOCATION (ANSA) - Milan, March 17 - When you first enter the new Eataly Smeraldo in Milan, you realize immediately that you've entered a temple to Italian gastronomy. There is, of course, lots of food and drink to buy. But before you proceed to the check out you will more likely than not be tempted to sit down somewhere and have a snack (or a full meal): with 19 eateries under one, big roof, there's something for everyone: from pizza, pasta and piadine to meat and fish restaurants as well as shops-in-shop selling fine ice cream and chocolate. The latest addition to the Eataly family, which opens to the public March 18, is truly a cultural center, with spaces for cooking courses, conferences, a book shop and - in line with its original theatrical origins - a stage for live music and performances.

Presenting the new 5,000 square meter, 4-storey location to the media on March 14, Oscar Farinetti, the firm's founder, emphasized the location's historical roots and connections to Milan.

Housed in what was formerly the Teatro Smeraldo, a short walk from the central Garibaldi train station, Farinetti pointed out that the theater served as the career launch pad for famous Italian singers including Celentano and Mina. It's also hosted musicals and ballets as well as concerts and performances by bands including Oasis and REM and acts by stars like Ray Charles and Woody Allen, among others. To keep this theatrical link alive, every day from 7:00 PM onwards patrons will be treated to free, live music.

The opening date is also important in Milan's history, for it was on March 18, 1848 that the Milanese launched their "cinque giornate" (five day) rebellion against occupying Austrian forces, Farinetti explained.

While historical references are abundant, from a building perspective very little remains of the original theater: only the four columns at the entrance. And the new location doesn't follow any particular format. Pointing out how every Eataly is a reality of its own (there are already some 25 locations in the world and another 10 or so are in the works), Farinetti said: "It's not a chain. I abhor places that are all the same. We are not Starbucks or McDonald's." Whatever your take on fast food, walking around the three floors of the new Eataly (another, smaller one will open its doors in Milan on March 21, near the central Piazza Duomo), you get a sense of what a food power Italy really is. Helping set the mood, some of the 300-plus newly-hired staffers wear t-shirts pointing out that "life is too short not to eat well," highlighting the message that Eataly is all about quality and not quantity. It's no coincidence that the Slow Food movement is the firm's "strategic consultant".

On the ground floor you have bars and snack points serving everything from Lavazza coffee and Venchi chocolates to fresh baked bread and pizza, as well as the bookshop, which aside from cook books also offers up wine and food guides and - in honor of the location's theatrical past - music-related titles including works on Miles Davis, Kiss and Bob Dylan. You can also buy everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to pasta and sweets, as well as kitchen utensils and design items.

Ride the escalators to the first floor and you find selections of cold cuts, cheeses, and fish and meat markets, as well as the more formal Alice restaurant.

The second floor is dedicated mostly to wines, waters and beers - many of them made by Italian microbrewers, a testament to the sector's livelihood - as well as two class rooms and a conference center able to host up to 150 people. Clearly Farinetti is on to something. Founded in 2002 and with its first location in Turin (opened in 2007), the food-emporium group has already hit 400 million euros in turnover and has already moved far away from its Italian homeland with locations in the US (New York and Chicago, with Los Angeles and Philadelphia soon), Turkey, Dubai and Japan (the second largest market outside Italy in terms of locations).

London, Paris and Sao Paulo in Brazil are also in the works.