/Eataly Supermarket Chain Conquers Rome

Eataly Supermarket Chain Conquers Rome

Every time I walk into Eataly, a hulking mass of glass and steel in Rome’s Ostiense-Garbatella district, I hear these words echo in my head: “Barilla! Italian for pasta!”. No, Eataly in Rome doesn’t sell this horrible industrial pasta trash…yet (though Barilla does monopolize the aisles in the supermarket’s NYC location, in Rome it is Eataly-owned Afeltra that dominates). But in the same way that a catchy jingle managed to bamboozle millions of Americans into thinking Barilla was quality because it was from Italy, Eataly has indoctrinated a gullible public with their own brand of slick, repetitive marketing. In spite of below average produce, terrible food, woefully uninformed staff, and all the charm of a badly run American food court, Eataly is packed day and night (the photo above shows customers pouring in at 10:30pm on a Thursday). I’ve written a bit about it for this Sunday’s NYT here and I will no doubt have more to share in future editorials.

2017-02-17T15:17:49+00:00 July 20th, 2012|Categories: Culture, Food & Wine, Rome & Lazio|15 Comments


  1. Laura July 20, 2012 at 1:16 pm - Reply

    I agree! Barilla is the worst!! I remember when I saw it in the NYC Eataly — so disappointing!

  2. Sarah May July 20, 2012 at 3:55 pm - Reply

    Thanks for posting this and a link to the article. What you wrote is exactly what I have imagined in my mind and now I am 100% sure that my choice to never shop there has been a correct one.

  3. Hande July 20, 2012 at 2:16 pm - Reply

    “Unfortunately the world of small food shops, those small places dedicated to quality food, like Americans imagine, died many years ago” first, i don’t agree they are dead (they are struggling) second, the farinetti answer is not the right answer to the situation. I agree with everything you have written, and have even more to quibble with the whole thing. Bad quality produce and self-owned brands and zero sustainabilitybeing some of them..l.

  4. […] of our favorite ex-pat bloggers, Rome-based Katie Parla, writes today about the new “big box” food store in Rome, […]

  5. Irene July 20, 2012 at 11:39 pm - Reply

    So Farinetti is actually SORRY that the small food shops died? Yeah right!
    Let’s drink a Barolo to that, because, as they say at Eataly, a Barolo pairs well with everything…

  6. Sarah May July 21, 2012 at 10:22 am - Reply

    OMG Irene, SOOOOOO spot-on.

  7. Ann Mah July 21, 2012 at 6:34 pm - Reply

    I’ve read so much about Eataly in New York, and I was skeptical when I heard the concept was coming to Rome. Your piece confirmed my doubts… and I wonder if the crowds will keep coming when the novelty wears off? For me, marketing at local shops, buying from local producers is the best part of living in Europe –though I do admit that shopping this way takes up the whole morning.

  8. Gina July 21, 2012 at 4:40 pm - Reply

    Thank you for this blog & for the NYT article. Like Hande, I agree with everything you’ve written. In some way I’ve come to terms with why Eataly works in NYC although I don’t support it but Rome, a city where there IS access to small producers!!! Instead of visiting Eataly, why not buy from some of the long time Testaccio vendors? grab a trapizzino at 00100? no need to go on.

  9. Nathalie ( @spacedlaw ) July 22, 2012 at 12:01 pm - Reply

    I share your feelings about the place, although I might visit it once (if only to look at the building).

    I don’t see a need for such a place in Italy, in particular in a city where still many good gastronomie are still active, and especially lost somewhere in a somewhat seedy limbo between Testaccio and Garbatella. As such I cannot imagine this being a long term success.
    I could be wrong, of course…

  10. We should remember that Eataly isn’t a New York thing, it’s an Italian thing.

    The first Eataly megastore opened in Torino back in 2007. As someone who produces olive oil on a small farm in Tuscany and has spoken in depth with Eataly’s olive oil sourcing department, I can say that the store DOES work with local, family-run producers.

    Eataly Rome is simply the latest branch in Italy, after the store and it’s market-restaurant concept found unparalleled success in Genova, Milano, Bologna, Pinerolo, Monticello and Incontra. Stores have been slated for other major Italian cities including Firenze.

    I personally like Eataly’s concept. I’ve been to the New York store more than 30 times, possibly more than 50 (I live on the street). I like having my coffee there in the mornings, and to get lost in a brightly-colored foodie fantasy world.

    Though I haven’t actually been to Rome’s Eataly, your post has inspired me to at least check it out. I promise to stop in next week, come back here and give my assessment. Maybe I’ll hate it too.

  11. Kelly August 2, 2012 at 7:30 pm - Reply

    The sad part is reading posts on CH where people are planning to spend one to two days of their Roman vacation visiting Eataly. What is that all about?!

  12. Jess August 7, 2012 at 9:49 am - Reply

    Many points made in this post as well as the NYT post are true BUT I think Eataly has been a great opportunity for dealing with a small bit of the unemployment in Rome. I think they have hired at least 500 people to work throughout the chain, which is great news. What do you think?

    • Katie August 10, 2012 at 11:13 am - Reply

      they have hired 500 people, mainly without food background, which is a lost opportunity from a philosophical standpoint but a clever way to reinforce low wages. i only have off the record comments about hiring policy so i wont go into it here, but i will say that job creation is important. however job creation with good contracts and possibility of upward mobility should be the goal.

  13. Patricia August 7, 2012 at 9:58 am - Reply

    Yes, Katie, you are a great experienced food critique but sometimes I think you need to look outside the box for a change? Eataly may be not the Roscioli o the Flavio al velavevodetto of the supermarkets or Restauramts but hey, at least there’s more variety for food shopping! Other than the same ol’boring Italian supermarket products like Barilla.

  14. Dianne - Rome the Second Time August 10, 2012 at 8:25 pm - Reply

    Hi Katie as (almost?) always, we couldn’t agree more on Eataly. Bill did a post on it the day after it opened… http://romethesecondtime.blogspot.com/2012/06/eataly-opens-rome-store.html
    And, I think you give it too much cred by saying it’s in Garbatella!
    Dianne (www.romethesecondtime.com)

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