The $106 Million ‘Eataly World’ Revealed
Italian food fans, gird your loins. Eataly World is almost here.
When it opens its doors in Bologna in Sept. 2017 (if all goes as scheduled), the 20-acre complex promises to showcase 10,000-square meters (108,000-square feet) of orchards, gardens, and pastures; 40 different workshops where you can watch pasta and cheeses being made; and 25 different restaurants and food stalls. Eataly reps are projecting that six million tourists will come visit annually; two million will be foreigners.
For loyal followers of the Italian-focused megastore, it’s the equivalent of a highly anticipated blockbuster film; it's the Avengers: Infinity War of food franchises, one that has almost 30 locations around the world, from Turin to Turkey to Tokyo.
Still, I'm skeptical.
I’m a big Eataly fan, mind you, particularly the newer downtown New York location. But its tagline “From the field to the fork” is a phrase so cliché, it has become ripe for parody. Among those 40 workshops, what will be truly compelling? I’ve seen pasta being made before; so has anybody who has ever flipped through the Food Network. Those 10,000-square meters for growing and grazing sounds like a lot until you do some google math and realize that it’s 2 ½ acres—a little more than a tenth of the entire property and just slightly larger than the 9,000 square meters of markets (granted, that retail space is about twice the size of the New York and L.A outlets).
The conceit of FICO Eataly World, its official name (F.I.CO. standing for Fabbricca Italiana Contadina, roughly "Italian Farming Factory") just seems ... off.
And yet, my skepticism bowed during an interview with Tiziana Primori, the CEO of Eataly World. She’s an impassioned woman—even through translator—who has some big plans for the foodie theme park, many of which sound amazing. Here's what made me a believer.
An $106 Million Investment
The Eataly World team is putting 100 million euros ($106 million) into the project—part of which will be publicly owned, with 2,000 businesses, big to small involved. According to Primori, eco-responsibility is a big focus, with a large part of that investment going to breaking down and disposing of existing concrete platforms from CAAB, the massive fruit and vegetable distribution center about 5 miles from Bologna's historic city center that it's replacing. Construction will use lots of reclaimed wood for its building, with an overall "natural" feeling, says Primori. Additionally, they’re installing 44,000 solar panels—the most on a single property in Europe.
Bianchi Bikes for All
To facilitate getting around, and shopping, there will be 500 adult-sized, bright-colored tricycles equipped with shopping baskets, especially designed by the famed bicycle maker Bianchi. They’re the first hybrid bike/shopping carts in a retail space according to Primori. “We created it as a way to efficiently move around, and also to shop,” she says. “Everyone will want one. They’re like the station wagon which was originally built for work but then became everyone’s family car.”
Those two-and-a-half acres of orchards and farmland will include olives, eggplant, melons, almond trees, and hazelnut trees—at least 30 kinds of produce. On the grazing land, you’ll find nine kinds of cows (including Chianina, the source of the elite bistecca alla Fiorentina), as well as five kinds of pigs, five kinds of goats, five kinds of sheep, and rabbit, geese, and guinea hens.
Truth in Taglines
The 40 workshops will go beyond your usual food demos to emphasize start-to-finish process (field-to-fork, ahem). So you will see wheat being turned into different kinds of flour, both by stone grinding and industrial milling. You’ll then see flour being made into several varieties of pasta. You can also watch, say, a Sarda sheep being milked and that milk turned into cheese.
Likewise, charcuterie fans can see the process of prosciutto making, starting with a ham leg that’s salted and what the various aging times look and taste like. That goes for beer and winemaking, too. There will be lots of classes for those who want to take their learning to the next level. Every day, visitors will be able to "see something being born," says Primori. What you won’t see is any of those animals getting killed. “We won’t make a theater out of slaughter,” is how Primori politely puts it when I ask. Stay tuned, though, on butchering demos.
There Will Be an Eataly Hotel
To add yet another level to the Eataly World experience, the crew is building a hotel within the complex. The 200-room property is set to open in 2018. (Room service, anyone?)
Virtual Reality "Rides"
There will be six of what Primori calls ‘rides’ but what many might think of as enhanced virtual reality experiences. Located around the property, the rides have names like "Man & Fire." The multi-part experience will first make you feel like you’re in a fire (presumably without the burning); the second part will demonstrate the importance of fire; the third part will test you.
Primori designed them with kids in mind; she knows there’s only so much cow milking they’ll want to watch. The most interesting experience, no doubt, will be "Man & the Future," which was designed in collaboration with MIT—or whatever "Man & the Bottle" turns out to be 1 The remaining three topics are "Man & Earth," "Man & the Sea," and "Man & the Animals."
In addition to 25 restaurants (including places dedicated to meat, fish, vegetables, pizza, pasta, polenta, an Italian regional spot, and one dedicated to smoothies) there will be three bars, featuring an Italian-focused one with cocktails like the all-important spritz.
A Nutella Fountain
Just kidding—although given the over-the-top extent of Eataly World's offerings, a girl can dream. In fact, don't look for a Nutella bar either, which is a highlight in locations like New York and Chicago. Primori promises lots of Nutella products though. Va bene.