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Archive for the ‘living in the Belpaese’ Category

The shelves at Eataly New York. Photo by Katie Sokoler from the Gothamist website.

Normally when I go home for a visit to the U.S., I avoid Italian food in all of its incarnations in favor of the ethnic foods I miss so. And I’m typically based in Milan, so I do have access to more ethnic foods than were I in many other parts of the Belpaese, but there are still many, many things I miss and seek out when I am away. This time I was in the U.S. for two whole months so after a while I did get a hankering for pesto and other Italian delicacies. Fortunately, most of the things I miss from Italy are quite easy to make and the ingredients are ever more readily available. On this trip, for example, my husband found buffalo mozzarella that had been flown in from Naples and was fresher than any buffalo mozzarella he’s ever bought in Milan.

The day before flying back to Italy, we went to the inauguration of the huge Eataly emporium that just opened in New York City’s Flatiron district (in the old Toy Building for those of you who know New York). We came (a bit late to avoid the long line), we saw (chef and partner of the venture Mario Batali in his kitchen whites and famous Crocs), we conquered (the crowds). Eataly is a giant market of artisanal Italian products that has ties to the Slow Food movement. There are various other Eataly emporiums in Italy (especially in and around Turin as that is where the Slow Food movement started), but the ginormous New York store is the first one in the United States. The store sells produce (grown in Brooklyn, from what I understand, not in Italy), pasta, oil, gelato, meats, cheeses, coffee, fresh bread and much more. Each area seems to have its own restaurant or “food court” where prepared foods can be tasted.

I went to the opening with a group of Italians and their take on it was that it was incredibly “commerciale.” It was too much of a madhouse to actually buy or try anything on offer, but I do have to say that if I were an Italy lover in the New York area, I might pay occasional visits to Eataly just to hear Italian spoken and get a feel for being in Italy. Inside there’s also a Rossopomodoro pizzeria, which is an Italian chain offering pretty good Neapolitan-style pizza. Eataly even has something I’ve never actually seen in Italy: a vegetable butcher. You buy your veggies and then specify to the “butcher” how you’d like them prepared. A rooftop beer garden at Eataly should also be opening any day now.

I found things to be a bit pricey, but I guess that is to be expected. The boxes of Barilla pasta that normally cost around $1.25 or $1.50 in regular American supermarkets are $2 here, but there is such a wide range of pastas that I’d probably come here and pay that if I were looking for something more obscure than penne or fusilli . And the displays are quite enticing.

If I’d had my camera, I would have taken pictures of the Eataly slogans plastered all over the place, which seemed to poke fun at Italian-style customer service. Near the checkout counters I saw slogans, such as “Italy isn’t perfect and either is Eataly” and “The customer is not always right and either is Eataly.” I didn’t buy anything (I was returning to Italy the day after, after all), but I wonder if the cashiers are as grumpy and demand exact change like they do here?

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This weekend I made it to the Earth Market I mentioned a few posts ago. We got there a bit on the late side (around 12:30 p.m. and it closes at 2 p.m.) so the pickings on some things were starting to get a bit slim, but we did get a chance to sample various products, such as artisanal beer, sorbet and gelato. There was a long line at one of the bread stands and by the time we made our way around the market and came back, all of the bread was sold out, which was a pity. Everything at the market is produced within 40 km of the city, and I liked how each of the stands had a sign listing the origin and distance from the city. But I do have to say that not everything that is organic, artisanal or “slow” is necessarily more delicious. As my husband commented upon tasting one “all-natural” product sample, “Maybe I prefer the one with chemicals that is bad for you.” Because the market was winding down by the time we got there, we ended up eating lunch in a nearby Egyptian pizzeria (yes, Egyptians are famous in Milan for their pizza-making skills) where I had the worst bowl of pasta I’ve ever had in ten years of living in Italy. I guess I should have ordered pizza, but usually I prefer pizza that’s been made in Naples (or within 40 km)…

In the park where the market was held, there were two different areas with stands. This was the first of them.

Stands with Art Nouveau building in the background

There were also picnic tables where you could sit and eat your purchases or listen to various Slow Food lectures

I found this advertisement for McDonald's at the entrance to the park where the Slow Food market was held to be a bit odd

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How are y’all enjoying this wacky summer weather? Is it wacky where you are? Here it is chilly and rainy – shades of November – and has been like this much of the last week. One thing that pulled me out of my weather funk was an email I received from a Canadian friend from Vancouver. She spent the better part of a decade in Milan and returned to Canada a year ago. She said she is still having moments of “reverse culture shock” and has been unable to adjust to the lack of chaos and the general sense of order in Vancouver. Here are a couple of shots she took to show me what she means.

This is a shot from Vancouver of a line forming for the bus. A bus that is not even there yet. Notice that even the funky hipster with requisite messenger bag (second to last in line) is not rebelling

Another shot from Vancouver. The line on the right is not quite as orderly as the one on the left, but keep in mind the bus isn't even there...

And here is our "study in contrasts" shot. This is what the line (if you can call it that) in front of me looked like at the post office on Friday here in Milan.

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