Italy, Fast & Slow: Behind the Unlikely Rise of Eataly

My piece on the Eataly supermarket chain has just been published by Time.

Three days a week, a retired agricultural officer named Teodoro Vadalà sets to work in the back of what was once a small roadside shop about an hour and a half south of Rome, making a cheese that has twice come close to extinction. Using a stirring stick and a large aluminum vat, he curdles sheep’s milk into small wheels of cheese, which he shapes by hand and sets on a table to dry. Il Conciato di San Vittore, as the cheese is called, represents the deepest roots of Italian culinary production — small scale, artisanal, steeped in history. Yet the chances for its survival would be slim if not for a recent partnership with an Italian business operating on a vastly different scale: the newly opened Eataly supermarket in central Rome.

With four floors of aisles and restaurants connected by moving walkways and glass elevators, the location is the gourmet chain’s newest and biggest, a flagship in the Italian capital to complement its branches in New York City, Tokyo, Torino and Milan. Mario Batali, a partner in the booming New York outpost, has turned Eataly into a hit by selling Americans on the appeal of traditional Italian culture. Eataly, in fact, is much more than that. With its big-box decor, globe-spanning ambitions and innovative marketing, it represents an opportunity for Italians to reclaim a culinary heritage that’s slipping away. On the broad spectrum of food culture, Eataly and Il Conciato di San Vittore are a world apart, yet each would be lost without the other.

Read the rest.