Ever since Italian entrepreneur Oscar Farinetti opened the first Eataly in Torino 12 years ago, he has 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 Farinetti, 64, at Eataly Paris Marais, which opened last weekend. “They understand artisanal products, they know wine, and they’re incredibly curious. You can’t make any mistakes.”
With seven restaurants and cafés, a produce market and a cellar with more than 1200 bottles of Italian wines, one of the most robust selections in France, Eataly Paris has taken on the characteristics of its successful predecessors - and is a behemoth of a food hall dedicated to artisanal Italian products, ingredients and dining.
Partnering with the Galeries Lafayette retail group, Farinetti is convinced he and his three sons, who run the business with him, have the right offerings to appeal to local tastes.
What can visitors expect from the Paris shop?
I like to say that Eataly is like one big family with 39 children: same father, different character. In this case, we honour France’s spirit of fraternity, its bistro culture and its close ties to Italy.
We’re cousins! Half of our staff are Italian, half are French (in other destinations, 90% of the staff are local, not Italian). And we have great Italian wines but 10% of the cellar has been devoted to French wines, too - that’s very important.
Would you consider yourself a Francophile?
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.
What is the first thing you do when you get to Paris?
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.
Do you have any other Paris rituals?
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.
What kind of traveller are you?
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).
Where are some of the last places you’ve visited?
I’ve been to Japan, Dubai, Canada and all over the US for work. I’m lucky to experience different regions and cultures for this job, but in my leisure time I prefer the familiar, somewhere in Italy or the south of France.
Where do you like to stay when you travel?
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.
Do you eat on the plane?
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.
How does it feel to travel the globe and see the mark you and your sons have made?
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.