With a warm hug and a kiss on both cheeks, Eataly, the largest artisanal Italian food and wine marketplace in the world, opened its first location in the Flatiron district of New York City. At 42,000 square feet, it's equal in size to the arena at the Roman Colosseum, and features a megamarket fully stocked with cured meats and fresh fish, cheeses, fruits and vegetables, handmade pastas, desserts, baked goods, coffees and teas, canned goods, sauces and olive oils -- and that's only on the main floor.
As a retail space, imagine a massive Ikea with marinara sauce.
This estravaganza is a creative collaboration between celebrity food stars Joe Bastianich, Mario Batali, Lidia Bastianich of Batali-Bastianich (B&B) Hospitality Group and Eataly founder Oscar Farinetti.
New Yorkers will have plenty to taste and savor including seven full-service restaurants, a take-out counter, café, rooftop beer garden, wine shop, bakery and patisserie, plus a housewares department, bookstore and culinary center called La Scuola.
The Eataly branding is bold but speaks in a gentle brand "voice." Signs and posters inform, guide and entertain shoppers with witty, bite size bits of wisdom about Italian food and culture. Manager Nicola Farinetti describes the spirit of the look and feel as ?autorevole?, translated as informal but passionate.
I appreciate the simplicity of the typography and graphics, all created in-house. Silhouetted photos of food accompany clean white backgrounds and Mrs. Eaves typeface set center style in a dark chocolate color, all of which evoke a refined sophistication. The style editorializes your visit and makes the experience feel like walking through a beautifully designed cookbook with a fun mix of English and Italian.
This works particularly well when accented with some subtle humor: "The Bathrooms are Located Near the Beer Section, of Course" or ?Life is too Short Not to Eat Well?. My favorite one is a quote from Sophia Loren: ?Everything You See I Owe to Spaghetti?, strategically positioned near the pasta section. These are mounted on columns, suspended overhead, propped on easels. They're also printed on staff t-shirts. Farinetti confesses that they are correcting a few errors in translation on some of the idioms. Those that I found were almost charming and add to the authenticity of the brand.
To further enhance the visitor experience, the merchandising of this vast offering is deftly done. CFO Adam Saper says their approach is unconventional, with many items arranged within general categories by producer as opposed to by product. He adds that they are transparent about the relationships they have with suppliers, offering their brands in cooperation with Eataly such as book publisher Rizzoli for Eataly.
My one reservation is the name "Eataly." It's a painful pun, but sounds better when pronounced with an Italian accent. The design of the logo is mezza mezza and could be stronger. Logo aside, the new world of brands and packaging lining the shelves-Italian imports, of course-present a feast for the eyes.
Everything and everyone is more beautiful in Eataly. At lunchtime, New Yorkers are packed in like imported sardines, but even a $10 take-out meal consisting of fresh melon and prosciutto is a finely crafted order and well worth the trip. Buon appetito!
Located at 200 Fifth Avenue at 23rd Street
[Pictures by Evan Sung, courtesy Eataly]