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FOOD & CULTURE – Eataly conquering the world

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With Expo 2015 Farinetti’s global brand will showcase Italian regional cuisine.


From Bali to Dallas, Italian food can be enjoyed everywhere, be it at a simple pizzeria or a fancy restaurant boasting a Michelin-accredited chef.

However, nobody before Eataly founder Oscar Farinetti had thought to create a chain of establishments offering Italian food products and restaurants, as well as cultural events and classes devoted to food. Places where one can find delicious Gragnano pasta, the best of Piedmont chocolate and dozens of fine Norcia prosciutto and salami varieties that can also, according to Farinetti, “spread knowledge of Italy’s excellent food and wine tradition, of its history, culture and tradition”.

The first Eataly, which opened in Turin in 2007 with the support of the local producers, inaugurated a new concept: a food market divided into different areas (cured meats and cheeses, meat, fish, fruits and vegetables and so forth) alongside themed restaurants, cookery courses, tasting sessions, a bookshop and more. All under one roof. 

The group numbers 11 stores in Italy, not counting franchising and partnerships, and last year had a turnover of approximately €320 million (not including franchisees).

In the US, building on the success of its 75,000 square-foot space on 5th Avenue in New York, Eataly has opened a new establishment in Chicago. The group also has eight stores in Japan and is present in Dubai and Istanbul. In its climb to the top of global Italian gastronomy, Eataly has also worked with the Slow Food movement, which helped select the suppliers of the first store in Turin and took direct charge of the same process for the Rome branch.

Farinetti attributes his success to a very simple notion: “We bring the world authentic top-quality Italian products and teach people that eating well is possible at home too”.

The entrepreneur is riding the powerful wave of the global expansion of Italian food, following in the footsteps of Italian immigrants. “Italian cuisine is made of top-quality ingredients and simple recipes. If you think about it, a plate of spaghetti with tomato sauce, if the pasta is good and the tomatoes are the right kind, is an easy recipe to make, even by inexperienced cooks. This is the strength of Italian cuisine”, said the entrepreneur from Alba, a city in the Piedmont region famous for its highly prized truffles.

Italian food promotes values such as “craftsmanship, authenticity and seasonal freshness, the defining characteristics of the Mediterranean diet”, but also instils the notion of conviviality. “It furthers the idea of the family unit, of maternal love, of ancient traditions handed down from generation to generation”, adds Farinetti.

The group’s international visibility will receive a major boost with Expo 2015, hosted in Milan from 1 May to 31 October, which is dedicated to the theme of food. Eataly’s pavilion boasts 20 restaurants, each dedicated to a particular region and its local traditions. Expo “will be a fantastic opportunity, as well as a celebration of our country and a world stage for its biodiversity in terms of people, landscapes, art and agribusiness. Italy is a leader in the latter sector, as a result of being the point where the winds that blow from the mountains and the hills meet the sea breezes”, explains Farinetti.

Eataly could easily rest on its laurels, but the group hungers for more. “Between 2015 and 2017 we’ll be opening stores in Germany, France and the UK. We choose our locations based on careful analysis as well as on a gut feeling”, says Farinetti, who is eager to lead the group through a stock market flotation in 2016-2017, market conditions permitting.

To that end, Farinetti has been raising private capital for the group. In March 2014, Clubitaly became a shareholder with a €120 million investment for a 20% stake. Clubitaly is co-owned by the ad hoc private equity fund Tamburi Investment Partners and some of Italy’s leading fashion and food companies, including Ferrero, Lavazza and Marzotto.  

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