«Right now, I'm eating Massimo Pezzani's Culatello di Zibello» ham and drinking Montanaro vermouth, made with 31 herbs. Incredible stuff, insanely good, it's absolutely my orgasm for today. What's on your mind?». Oscar Farinetti, founder and chairman of Eataly, actually has in mind a number of other stupendous pleasures, not as rare, perhaps, as this delicious, high quality food.
His company, that groups the top brands of fine Italian foods and wines positively rocks. In nautical terms, the wind is in its sails, and we mean that literally too, since it is about to set sail from Genoa in a regatta, captained by Giovanni Soldini and Farinetti himself, that will consist of four stops, terminating in New York. The event is one that goes beyond company marketing, as he hopes to deliver a «political» document to the Consul General: Seven moves for Italy, which explains what needs to be done (and how to go about it) to improve the Italian economy. «We are proposing these seven points, but I want it to be very clear that we are open to suggestions from anyone. People are welcome to speak up and make changes. All they have to do is click www.7mosse.it».
Does the regatta depart from Genoa because that is where you are opening your new store?
Let me just call your attention to the timing, which I consider particularly important: we depart on April 25 and we plan to arrive in America on June 2, two important Italian holidays: Italian Liberation and the celebration of the Republic. Having said that, it's true, we are inaugurating our store in Genoa, near the Old Port in 2011, and in 2012 we will concentrate on Italy.
After the undreamed-of success you had in New York...
We had dreams all right, but this exceeded our wildest imagination. The New York Times placed us among the Top Five Destinations. Incredible figures: we have 558 employees, 20,000 visitors every day, with 3,000 people eating at our place every day. There is a line outside, going down Fifth Avenue».
It was a boom that seemed to announce your triumphal march on the entire world. Instead of that you are concentrating all your energy on Italy.
Yes, and with great conviction. On December 9, we will open in Rome. It will be enormous. Over 15,000 square meters, 16 restaurants on the premises, a space chosen in the sign of the restoration of historical buildings: the Air Terminal at the Ostiense Station. Built by Fuente, one of the fathers of the Postmodern movement, it is spectacularly gorgeous. In 2012 we'll do Milan, then Bari. We'll have some foreign openings in 2013, where we are interested in Chicago and Los Angeles, London and Berlin.
What about Japan?
Ah, yes, Japan. No only are we not leaving because of the disaster, but instead of the four outlets we have now, with 111 people, we'll soon have seven: we are opening three more in Tokyo.
This two-year focus on Italy seems to mean: made in Italy for Italy...
Sounds good. But you see, our business is the most important product of all, one that enters peoples' bodies: food. Yet people know so little about it. Here's an example that needs no explanation: we are the country of the Mediterranean diet, with a cuisine based on carbohydrates, and do you know how many Italians know the difference between common wheat and durum wheat? Less than 35%. At the same time, more than 60% know what ABS means. There is room for improvement, I'd say.
How much do you plan to invest to close this gap and bring Eataly to the Italian cities?
22 million euro. Creating more than 700 new jobs.
But the crisis isn't over here, and there is a certain amount of Latin reluctance to change. Do these things worry you?
Not a bit. The Italians are intelligent people. I have found that life is a movie with a happy ending, because in the long run you always end up in the right place