Eataly, the Italian food hall behemoth that answers the question, “what if every commonly held belief about Italian food and culture, but al massimo?” has laid out its grand plan for its London debut: a 42,000 square feet colossus right next to Liverpool Street Station, planned since 2017.
Not content with the trajectory of outdoor and indoor reopening, Eataly — that is to say, Eat and Italy, put together, EATALY —will have grand openings of various kinds, dousing Liverpool Street in an abbondanza of pasta, pizza, and spritz not once, but thrice. From 29 April, its food hall and outdoor dining terrace will open, alongside takeaway pizza, pasta, gelato, cannoli, and other foods that are Italian, because this is Eataly. On 20 May, two restaurants — Cucina del Mercato and Pasta e Pizza (yes for real) will open alongside a cooking school, and in September Terra, a “fine dining” restaurant will open. It will hope that all four of these things do, indeed, constitute amore.
If this scans as faintly ludicrous writing this is merely because Eataly is faintly ludicrous, in a benevolent way befitting of espresso cups slammed on bars and copious gesti. If this scans as faintly ludicrous again, consider that Eataly, not content with nearly 40 locations worldwide, has an Eataly theme park, which has its own pack of truffle-hunting dogs, which inhabit Truffle World, which sits alongside two point five (2.5) acres of retail space, and food rides, and, allegedly, every single type of alcohol Italy has ever produced. It’s casual, okay.
Eataly probably faintly ludicrous in America, where it has found the most success, because its arrival predated both a boom in food halls and a growing feeling among Americans that actually, eating some pasta where you buy some pasta isn’t weird. Such multifaceted marketplaces are more embedded in Europe and London — which probably explains why Eataly has gone so large for its U.K. debut.
Eataly’s chief executive Nicola Farinetti — son of founder, Oscar, said:
We are delighted to finally open our Eataly London doors to bring our love of Italian gastronomy to the UK at a time when consumers and hospitality professionals appreciate and need it the most. Eataly was founded with a vision to bring the biodiversity, craft and different layers of culinary experiences of Italy together under one roof, under our motto of “Eat, Shop, Learn”. Togetherness is at the heart of our brand and, while we will adhere to and implement all the necessary safety measures, we cannot wait to meet our new locals and celebrate passionate artisans and high-quality food in a dynamic and culturally diverse reality such as London.
Eataly is joining a city whose apparent food hall boom was busted by Covid-19: the likes of Market Halls and Arcade Food Theatre are yet to reopen at all; Time Out Market has shelved plans for Waterloo; “street food” company Kerb’s off-street Seven Dials food hall has managed to open for takeaway. Eataly’s retail/dining split will in theory make it more resilient than Market Halls or Time Out, but it will nevertheless hope that the city’s Italians are less mad at its food, and more mad about it.