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Okay, maybe there was a little hyperbole at work.

Last week, at the opening of Eataly, his new “Italian food destination” in New York City’s Flatiron district, chef Mario Batali said, “We are extremely happy to open the most important grocery store in the world in the most important city in America, and we are happy to share the beauty of the Italian culture and table with the most sophisticated people on the planet.”

But if Batali was a little carried way in this enthusiasm, there is no question that Eataly is a unique offering; here’s how the company describes the new store:

“Eataly encompasses 42,500 square feet of restaurant and retail space and a 4,500 square foot open-air rooftop beer garden. The seven Eataly restaurants include Le Verdure (vegetable), Il Manzo (meat), Il Pesce (fish), La Pasta (pasta), La Pizza (pizza), I Salumi eI Formaggi (salumi and cheese), and Il Crudo (raw bar). The rooftop beer garden, La Birreria, will serve a range of beers year-round as well as a variety of pizzas and sausages, and Lavazza Café will serve espressos, cappuccinos, gelato and pastries. The pasticceria counter will also serve several petite desserts called dolci al cucchiaio ("spoon desserts").

“Eataly's retail marketplace will offer a variety of cured meats, cheeses, fruits and vegetables, fresh meats and fish, handmade pastas, desserts, baked goods, coffees and teas, Italian dried pastas, canned goods, sauces, olive oils, vinegars and a selection of housewares and books. Many of the fresh products come from the New York metropolitan area, including all of the milk, eggs and flour. David Pasternack, executive chef of New York's Esca restaurant, will oversee Eataly's fresh fish and seafood selection, which will come through New York City's Fulton Fish Market at Hunt's Point.”

And, “Eataly's La Scuola culinary education center will offer special events occurring year round, including food and wine courses, demonstrations and lectures led by accredited instructors, renowned chefs, winemakers and producers from the best farms in the world.”
KC's View:
Batali may be a little over the top, but his statements and store reflect something that we’ve been talking about here on MNB for a long time - that too many supermarkets have forgotten that they are in the food business, that they ought to be category killers in the business of celebrating food, rather than in the business of buying smart from COPG companies and selling boxes, bags and jars.

I love what Batali told New York magazine about the store:

“I think we need a temple. I think we need a place where food is more sacred than commerce, a place to go and be provoked and think about great food and great stuff. But I don’t want it to feel like it’s all didactic and super-heady. We’re not selling a philosophy. We’re selling polenta.”

I can’t wait to see it.