Typically big-box stores (a la: Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Target, etc.) and over-sized supermarkets have been an American import slowly spreading their bland conformity across Europe and beyond. But this is a switch.
I first visited the mega-sized specialty market, Eataly, in Turino, Italy, in 2009. I’d pegged it as an all-Italian ‘Whole Foods’. My mouth watered and my eyes glazed over as I roved the many, stark-white aisles filled with sexy bottles of truffle-oil, silky gelato, and an amazing array of fresh meats, pastas, cheeses, and breads.
The Slow Food organization serves as a consultant to Eataly, and the artisinal super-store has adopted its three principles. Slow Food is good, clean and fair food.
- Food must taste good
- Food must be produced in a clean way that does not harm the environment, animal welfare or our health
- Food producers should receive fair compensation for their work
Like Santa bringing us gifts at Christmas, one red-faced, jolly Mario Batali, has now brought Eataly to all New Yorkers. The huge store sits just across the street from the Flatiron Building and Madison Square Park and is a mecca of Italian foodstuffs, various fancy bar ‘stations’ (more like mid-store restaurants), and boisterous espresso and wine bars.
Upstairs, on the roof, Birreria opened this past summer. The huge outdoor space is more than a beer garden, as sometimes described, even though they do brew some of their own ales as their name suggests (Birreria means brewery in Italian). For me, the food is the draw here as the menu is stuffed full with all the delightful fixin’s of an ‘Italian picnic’ – charcuterie, cheeses, mushroom dishes, and other assorted savory morsels. It’s not cheap, but the views are pretty priceless with the Empire State building looming overheard to the north and the Flatiron building just to the west, across the street, so close, you feel you can touch it.
See photo gallery here. Roll-over & click on each for larger image slideshow.