| MILAN, March 18
MILAN, March 18 Sundried tomatoes and seabass
tartare tickled tastebuds in Milan on Tuesday as upmarket
Italian food hall chain Eataly opened a flagship store, the
latest step in its plan to expand and list its shares on the
Eataly, which began with the idea that there should be a
place to buy, eat and study high-quality Italian food and wine,
has 25 food emporiums in the United States, Turkey, Japan and
The company, which plans to float shares in 2017, is taking
advantage of investor appetite for Italian companies that make
artisanal or luxury products. Milan's main stock market has seen
four share sales in the past three years and all have been
high-end consumer goods firms.
The 5,000 square-metre space, one of the chain's largest, is
important for the company as Milan is Italy's "most
metropolitan" city, where it previously had only one
250-square-metre store, founder Oscar Farinetti said at the
"From here we will branch out around the world, to Moscow,
Sao Paolo, London, Paris, Los Angeles," Farinetti said.
Shoppers queued outside the four-storey converted theatre,
where jars of pesto and pureed tomato lined the shelves and
open-plan restaurants offered cuts of raw meat and fish.
Farinetti said the company sourced local goods from the
Lombardy region surrounding Milan, in line with its stated aim
to educate people about what they consume.
"We have celebrated the beauty of agriculture and food in
Lombardy, which hardly anyone knows is Italy's most important
region for agriculture," Farinetti said.
Farinetti expects the shop, which resounded with the music
of a piano played on a balcony under a glass ceiling, to reach a
turnover of 40 million euros ($55.7 million) a year.
"This is a flagship for the country," said 60 year-old
retiree Rosella Assandri, eyeing the fish counter. "Tourists can
come here and try new things and appreciate the best of Italy."
Products from tinned tuna to jars of pasta sauce made from
hare meat had placards explaining the origins of their brands,
highlighting the diverse nature of Italy's food industry.
"Behind this big operation is the work of thousands and
thousands of small artisans, that face challenges like
bureaucracy but still keep the image of Italy alive," said Carlo
Petrini, founder of non-profit organisation Slow Food, which
promotes the idea of sourcing ingredients locally without
harming the environment and treating small producers fairly.
Other institutions in Italy, struggling to emerge from its
longest recession in seventy years, could learn from Eataly's
example in promoting part of the national identity, art critic
and former junior culture minister Vittorio Sgarbi told Reuters.
"How can we make the most of our cultural heritage? Look
around you," Sgarbi said, gesturing towards a kitchen area where
aproned chefs rolled dough into pasta shapes. "We could bring
our artistic heritage to life in this way too."
(1 = 0.7180 Euros)
(editing by Louise Heavens)