Skip to comments.Inside Eataly World, Italy’s Massive Food Theme Park
Posted on 11/15/2017 5:51:47 PM PST by 2ndDivisionVet
Its easy to get lost in the idea of FICO Eataly World, dubbed by many in the media as the Disney World of food. The park, located 30 minutes east of Bologna, Italy and open to the public today, is less of a Disney World and more of a industrial showroom and souped-up mall food court with contrasting surprises.
Theres a dairy plant and outdoor livestock stalls housing more than 200 cows, goats, and chickens. Theres a mini-plot of forest land thats home to truffle dogs (aka some of the sweetest Labradors around) who show guests how they can sniff out a truffle within 60 seconds. There are department store-like fixtures selling state-of-the-art kitchenware. Theres an indoor sports area and kids playground. Theres an interactive hydroponics plant; 26 agrifarms growing everything from olive trees to grains; and 34 factories, including an Italian craft brewery and a flour and rice mill.
And of course, theres food: mortadella panini featuring ham made on-site, speared chunks of Parmigiano cheese aged up to 72 months, aged balsamic vinegar from Modena and Reggio Emilia. Along the food court, stands offer obscure delicacies like Florentine lampredotto (cow stomach stuffed in a panino) and plates of fresh lasagna; pizzaiolo with thick Neapolitan accents toss pizza into foldable margherita for the road. Gelato machine manufacturer Carpigiani offers tastes of gelato; other diners line up at the oysters and bubbly bar in the seafood marketplace, which showcases catches from nearby Rimini, on the Adriatic Coast.
The Italian food theme park was first envisioned in 2012 by members of the Agri-Food Center of Bologna; in early 2014, they partnered with Eataly founder Oscar Farinetti to create FICO Eataly World. FICO meaning fig and slang for cool in Italian technically stands for Fabbrica Italiana Contadina (Italian Farming Factory), and the project is the culmination of efforts by more than 30 private investors, including major industrial producers, frozen food companies, milk producers, and government regulated agri-food consortiums.
Eataly World spans 10 hectares, or nearly 25 acres (dont forget a map and a bike, available for rent youll need both in order to navigate the site). In addition to all the food, drink, and spectacle, it houses six educational rides called carousels which chart the humans relationship with agriculture by theme: fire, earth, sea, animals, soil to bottle, and the future of food. (Functionally, they seem more like museum installations than actual carnival rides.) The end goal: For Eataly World to serve as a citadel of food and sustainability that illustrates how Italian products known the world-over are made.
Farinetti, a serial entrepreneur, first opened Eataly in 2007 as a small speciality store sourcing Italian delicacies from local producers. It now operates around the world, with locations from Japan to California. People asked me, isnt this project too big? Farinetti said of FICO during a press conference last week. To which I said, Its not big enough. In Italy, we have 1,200 varieties of apples. (Those apples are displayed at the parks entrance and are intended to be donated to the hungry on a rotating basis.) If you look at Disney World, they experience 56 million visitors a year, Farinetti continued. We need to double the number of tourists in Italy using the theme of our heritage and that [heritage] is food.
Farinetti hopes the park will increase brand awareness to Eataly, increase tourism, and create jobs in Emilia-Romagna. Currently there are more than 700 park employees, and 3,000 jobs within the region are said to have been created as a result of Eatalys presence. (The brand, however, has come under fire in Italy for its precarious work contracts; in 2014, strikes were held at Florences Eataly outpost, with workers demanding better job security.)
And not surprisingly, food politics are present elsewhere. Some are fueled by Italys unique adherence to food tradition. One of the first stands inside FICO is a mortadella producer, where guests can witness how mortadella ham, one of Bolognas most iconic foods, is made. Increasingly, mortadella is being industrially made while artisan makers following IGP (Indicazione Geografica Protetta) standards are in decline. (IGP stands for a product traditional to a particular geographic area, and its specific production techniques are protected by a government-run consortium; DOP, another designation, is slightly stricter, as the consortium follows every step in production and controls the confines of where the product is made.)
As a result of those government protections, Parmigiano-Reggiano cannot be produced onsite at FICO: The site falls 7 kilometers outside the geographic limit. Grana Padano, an aged cheese similar to Parmigiano but distinctly different in quality, can be made onsite only because the entire province of Bologna was recently approved by standard-bearers.
The Emilia-Romagna region is home to Italys highest number of IGP and DOP products 44 to be precise which explains why its historic capital of Bologna was selected as the home for a project aimed at promoting the diversity of Italian products. But some items appearing (or not appearing) on Eataly Worlds shelves give pause, reflecting another element of politics. Why is Pecorino (ewes milk cheese, an element crucial to the food identity of many Italian regions, from Rome to Tuscany to Sardinia) missing from Eatalys cheese collection? Why are frozen food purveyors serving lamb skewer arrosticini, a specialty from Abruzzo increasingly made by machines and less by hand? And why does Amadori, a major industrial meat producer who supplies to McDonalds, have representation at a park that aims to proudly showcase Italian culinary artisanship?
Local tourism bureaus also argue that Farinettis goal to increase tourism might tax the infrastructure available in Bologna. Airbnb in the city is currently unregulated, and critics suggest its presence has undercut the hospitality sector and challenged locals and students ability to secure affordable housing. The other fear is that the call for an ambitious 6 million visitors annually, added to the already 12.9 percent visitor growth since 2016, means the city will be seen mainly as a food attraction, dismissing the other valuable cultural heritage attractions. Eataly plans to have public transport shuttles from the center of Bologna every half hour from the citys main railway station. Trenitalia, the countrys public railway system, is offering incentives to visitors until January 15, with reduced train tickets for anyone visiting Bologna using high speed, intercity, or night trains.
While it is uncertain if FICO will last as long as one of the small bottles of aged balsamic vinegars, its worth a visit for a taste of one of the worlds most biodiverse food cultures. Italy may not be a perfect place, but it may be one of the happiest and healthiest destinations on earth for food lovers an experience Eataly World hopes to house all under one giant roof.
I thought I was the one who loved bad puns.
Crazy. I’d go!
Theres an Eataly here in Chicago
Hopefully the women don’t come out looking like Rosie O’Donnell.
Some of the best food I’ve eaten was in trucks stops in Italy. Food was so good in Italy, everywhere.
In italy I’ve spent most of my lunches grabbing food in delis. At dinner I’m a sucker for osso bucco (sp?).
Just ask the Sopranos. You Cant get good Italian food in the north.
Go to Arthur avenue in the Bronx if you want great Italian food. From Southern Italy.
That was an okay movie. It had its moments. The police captain near the end, expressing his disbelief at the detectives’ official explanation was a nice touch.
Theres an Eataly here in Chicago
There is indeed. And its worth a visit.
Try Louis’ Restaurant in The Bronx, it’s got the best veal in the City.
There is one in Boston. Maybe I’ll give it a try. I love Italian food!
You’ll never know what you’ll find in the bathroom!
Never saw it - I must live in a cave.
Back in the 60’s my husband’s Italian Aunts would make a dish called Sufreit. It was made with all the innards of a cow simmered in a red tomato sauce, gravy. I have tried to look for a recipe on the internet but can’t find one. Anyone else ever heard of such a dish?
Nah. I saw Illeana Douglas on some celebrity cooking competition show, and I don’t think any of the judges made an Osso Bucco reference while chitchatting to her, either.
“What guarantees can I give? I’m the hunted one. “
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.