When it Comes to the French and Food, ‘You Can’t Make Any Mistakes’


Ever since the Italian entrepreneur Oscar Farinetti opened the first Eataly in Torino 12 years ago, he’s dreamed of bringing his Italian marketplace to Paris. But he would have to perfect the concept in 37 other locations, from Tokyo to Las Vegas, before this dream would become a reality.

“The French consumer is mature and fanatical about food,” said Mr. Farinetti, 64, last month at Eataly Paris Marais, which is to open to the public in mid-April. “They understand artisanal products, they know wine, and they’re incredibly curious. You can’t make any mistakes.”

With seven restaurants and cafes, a produce market and a cellar with more than 1,200 bottles of Italian wines, one of the most robust selections in France, Eataly Paris will take on the characteristics of its successful predecessors — a behemoth of a food hall dedicated to artisanal Italian products, ingredients and dining. Partnering with the Galeries Lafayette retail group, Mr. Farinetti is convinced he and his three sons, who run the business with him, have the right offerings to appeal to local tastes.

I like to say that Eataly is like one big family with 39 children: same father, different character. In this case, we honor France’s spirit of fraternity, its bistro culture and its close ties to Italy. We’re cousins! Half of our staff will be Italian, half will be French (in other destinations, 90 percent of the staff is local, not Italian). And we’ll have great Italian wines but 10 percent of the cellar will be devoted to French wines too — that’s very important.

Yes! Culture, food, wine, art — it’s all here. I have tremendous respect for the French. I spend at least three months during summer in a house near Saint-Tropez. I love the Côte d’Azur. But I also make at least two to three trips to Paris every year.

I go straight to the heart of the city — the Louvre! Sometimes, the Musée d’Orsay. That’s always where I want to be. I could spend a week in each museum.

Eat and stroll. It’s a city made for walking and I don’t necessarily have a destination in mind or a set plan. It’s fantastic to get lost. I never go to the same restaurants or eat the same dishes but I do seek out old bistros. They are part of what makes this the food capital of the world.

Simple! I prefer train travel when it’s an option and when I fly, I stick to carry-on luggage only (which I admit my wife always packs for me).

I’ve been to Japan, Dubai, Canada and all over the United States for work. I’m lucky to experience different regions and cultures for this job, but during my leisure time I prefer the familiar — somewhere in Italy or the south of France.

The hotel isn’t important, the restaurant is the most crucial detail. I’ll choose what and where I eat and then select a hotel nearby. I would sleep on the street so long as I’m eating well.

Always! For one, because I’m curious. I know how logistically difficult it can be to prepare restaurant-quality meals to serve in the air but I’ve found that the food is getting better and better.

Proud, but only to a degree. It exists because of something I can’t control — I happened to be born in Italy to my mother and father. So really, it’s humbling. I feel lucky.

This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.


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