Everything has just stopped.
Crops sit unharvested. Seafood is caught with nobody to buy it. Wine sits unexported. The TV news just keeps reporting everything as if time has stopped. Meanwhile, restaurant owners are crying out for help. Of course people come to Italy for its notable historical sights and memorable panoramic views, but there’s no doubt that its mouthwatering food is the number-one draw. But the fact is that even the local Milanese are losing hope of ever being able to enjoy a meal at a restaurant again—much less foreign tourists.
Eataly founder Oscar Farinetti created a brand that made Italian cuisine more commercially accessible to the wider world. He recently opened some stores in Japan as well, so some of you may be familiar with the company.
The easiest way to picture Eataly is to think of it as a high-end food market. The flagship store is apparently in Turin, but the Milan location has a far more opulent look to it. The Milan store opened in 2014, and though I made a point to avoid going there during its special opening events, it was so gorgeous that I felt like I had entered a fairytale wonderland the moment I stepped inside.
One of my coworkers was telling me how wonderful the food was there—so much so that he had mixed feelings about it. “I love cooking,” he told me, “so if I start shopping at Eataly, I’ll be broke by the end of the day.” But even someone who isn’t interested in cooking will be struck by the richness of Italy’s food culture if they visit the Milan store. It’s a fun place to go, even if you treat it as a kind of expo instead of a supermarket.
Eataly got its start in a refurbished theater in the center of the city. I felt so giddy when I saw the glass-covered entrance that I wanted to rush into the department store like a dog gleefully bounding into a field. They really work to create an elevated experience. Eataly delivers a market experience that feels so right and so essential that the people of Milan wonder how they ever lived without it.
The ceiling of the first-floor produce section opens up all the way to the third floor. Even a poor cook like me ends up feeling like a Michelin-starred chef when you browse through the gorgeous rows of vegetables—like you’d have no trouble whipping up an exquisite meal.
After looking at all the produce on the first floor, it’s time to head up to the second floor to select ham, other meats, and cheeses, and then to the third floor to pick out wine to go with the meal. It’s only when you swallow that you realize that you’re drooling—so off you go to the food court where you can look up or down at the open-air market and enjoy the authentic tastes of Italy.
All that’s left is to take the ingredients, recipe books, and kitchen implements you bought and put them to use at home!