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FORBES

Eataly shows its bite in Forbes top brand list

The Italian food supermarket, Eataly, has been named among the 25 most "disruptive" brands in the world for 2015 by the influential US business magazine, Forbes.

Eataly shows its bite in Forbes top brand list
Eataly has been named as one of the top 25 'disruptive' brands in the world. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

In a list largely populated by app-based startups, such as Uber, and established brands widely regarded as trailblazers, including Apple, the inclusion of the gourmet Italian supermarket in 23rd place might raise a few eyebrows.

Forbes described “disruptive” brands as those which “grow in leaps and bounds, changing the trajectory of consumers’ viewpoint of the brand and the marketplace”.

The company, headquartered in the Lingotto area of Turin, said in a statement that it is “delighted to be the only Italian brand on the list…Disruptive brands destroy old frameworks and involve clients by anticipating trends and allowing them to feel like part of the company.”

But Eataly has been shaking up the marketplace since it first opened its doors in Turin in 2007.

Inspired by the good, clean and fair philosophy of 'Slow Food' founder Carlo Petrini, the shelves of each store are stacked high with sustainably sourced, artisanal produce from Italy.

“It's a really innovative way to let the world discover true Italian food,” 24-year old Eataly shopper Chiara Arena told The Local.

“The quality is really high – and at the moment there is so much 'fake' Italian stuff out there: it's great that foreigners have a place to go to discover what real Italian food is all about – even if the products are a bit pricey.”

But Eataly is more than just a luxury supermarket, and its success is in part due to the fact that it strives to provides shoppers with an all-round food experience.

Avid foodies don't just browse Eataly's shelves for regional olive oil varieties, exquisite cheeses, cured meats and preserves, they also dine at the restaurant, buy cooking equipment or pep themselves up with a freshly roasted Italian coffee and some real Italian gelato.

This blend has transformed Eataly from a single store in Turin to a network of 28 stores worldwide, which boasted a turnover of €300 million in 2014 in under 10 years.

At present, the majority of Eataly stores (16) are in Italy but earlier this year founder Oscar Farinetti, announced plans for a global expansion.

Eataly has a number flagship international stores, notably in Seoul, New York, Tokyo and Istanbul but by 2018 the brand will be present in most of the world's biggest cities.

London, Hong Kong, Paris, Mexico City and Moscow will all see stores open over the next two years, transforming the company into a truly global brand.

“Our aim is to continually challenge consumer habits,” the company said.

Its imminent arrival in London has many shoppers who know the brand salivating at the thought. But it also provides the company with a new set of challenges. 

“Its arrival in England could definitely change consumer trends for the better,” said Rome-based Englishman Jonathan Moody, who discovered the store in Italy two years ago and is now an avid shopper.

But he believes the brand's international expansion should go hand in hand with widening the range of products on offer to include more local flavours.

“For example in the UK perhaps it should promote some British products and offer a channel for British producers to sell their wares. Otherwise it's just a glorified supermarket selling high-end Italian goods.”

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FOOD & DRINK

OPINION: Michelin-starred cuisine is just not suited to Italy

Michelin-starred food has its merits but it doesn't fit with the Italian tradition of cuisine, argues Silvia Marchetti and some frustrated Italian chefs. There's nothing better than a plate of steaming lasagne, she says.

OPINION: Michelin-starred cuisine is just not suited to Italy

I’ve never been a great fan of sophisticated dishes, twisted recipes and extravagant concoctions that leave you wondering what is it you’re actually eating. T-bone steak with melted dark chocolate as topping, burrata cheese with apples, spaghetti with blueberry sauce aren’t my thing.

Hence, I never eat at Michelin-starred restaurants, and it’s not because of the exorbitant bill – paying €200 for a salad simply because it was grown in the private garden of a chef which he personally sprinkles with mountain water each morning, is a bit over the top.

I just don’t think such fancy food has anything to do with the real Italian tradition.

The ‘nouvelle cuisine’, as the name suggests, was invented in France by chef Paul Bocuse. And it’s ‘nouvelle’ – new – not anchored to past traditions.

The philosophy of serving small morsels of chic food on humongous plates as if they were works of art is the exact opposite of what Italian culinary tradition is all about.

We love to indulge in platefuls of pasta or gnocchi (and often go for a second round), and there are normally three courses (first, second, side dish, dessert and/or coffee), never a 9 or 12-course menu as served at Michelin establishments (unless, perhaps, it’s a wedding).

Too many bites of too many foods messes with flavours and numbs palates, and at the end of a long meal during which you’ve tasted so many creative twists you can hardly remember one, I always leave still feeling hungry and unsatisfied. 

So back home, I often prepare myself a dishful of spaghetti because Michelin pasta servings often consist in just one fork portion artistically curled and laid on the dish. In fact, in my view Michelin starred cuisine feeds more the eye than the stomach.

The way plates are composed, with so much attention to detail, colour, and their visual impact, seems as if they’re made to show-off how great a chef is, than as succulent meals to devour. I used to look at my dish flabbergasted, trying to make out what those de-constructed ingredients were and are now meant to be, and then perplexed,

I look at the chef, and feel as if I’m talking to an eclectic painter who has created a ‘masterpiece’ with my dinner. I’m not saying Michelin starred food is not good, there are some great chefs in Italy who have heightened a revisited Italian cuisine to the Olympus of food, but I just don’t like it nor understand it.

There’s nothing greater than seeing a plate of steaming lasagne being brought to the table and knowing beforehand that my taste buds will also recognise it as such, and enjoy it, rather than finding out it’s actually a sweet pudding instead.

More than once, after a 4-hour Michelin meal with a 20-minute presentation of each dish by the chef, the elaborate food tasted has given me a few digestion problems which lasted all night long.

Michelin-starred food has started to raise eyebrows in Italy among traditional chefs, and is now the focus of a controversy on whether it embodies the authentic Italian culinary experience. 

A Milanese born and bred, Cesare Battisti is the owner of restaurant Ratanà, considered the ‘temple’ of the real risotto alla Milanese.

He has launched a crusade to defend traditional Milanese recipes from what he deems the extravagance and “contamination” of Michelin-starred cuisine. “Michelin-starred experiments are mere culinary pornography. Those chefs see their own ego reflected in their dishes. Their cooking is a narcissistic, snob act meant to confuse, intimidate and disorientate eaters”. 

Arrigo Cipriani, food expert and owner of historical trattoria Harry’s Bar in Venice, says Michelin-starred cuisine is destroying Italy’s real food tradition, the one served inside the many trattorias and historical osterias scattered across the boot where old recipes, and cooking techniques, survive.

“Tasting menus are made so that clients are forced to eat what the chef wants, and reflect the narcissistic nature of such chefs. Italian Michelin-starred cuisine is just a bad copy cat of the French one”, says Cipriani.

I believe we should leave French-style cuisine to the French, who are great at this, and stick to how our grannies cook and have taught us to prepare simple, abundant dishes. At least, you’ll never feel hungry after dinner.

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