Eataly: Rome’s Food and Drink Park

Eataly: Rome’s Food and Drink Park

Explore Rome’s hottest new attraction: Eataly. A culinary theme park with all-Italian foods and more. There are choices for all tastes: Drink an Italian IPA in the beer room, have fried prawns and white wine, have a Florentine steak and a glass of barolo, find the ultimate cook book, learn how to make pasta, etc, etc.

On June 12 2012 the once abandoned terminal right next to the Ostiense station transformed itself into Eataly – a theme park dedicated entirely to Italian food and drink. Oscar Farinetti, the creator of Eataly, described his project as a Disneyland dedicated to Italian beauty, style, and culinary genius. Oscar Farinetti’s slogan La Bellezza Ci Salvera’ (Beauty Will Save Us) has created a lot of hype and Eataly is now a top destination for Italians.

Oscar Farinetti is an eclectic man, an entrepreneur and street philosopher. In a recent youtube video he talks about the three orgasms of civilization: sex, food, and poetry. He values narrative and poetics and their relation to food. Farinetti wants to narrate food. He hits a winning note because food in Italy is not just sustenance; food is a big part of culture. What happens at the table is of utter importance and may reflect much bigger concerns. Oscar Farinetti’s invention is not only an economic success but also an incentive for getting Italy up again with a common concern: food. Eataly has given a big push in a city where innovation is faltering by creating new jobs and providing food-related cultural activities. 

The space is divided between 3 floors and offers 23 different locations specializing in all the hottest Italian foods: Neapolitan pizza, spaghetti, fish, fried seafood, rotisserie chicken, panini, piadine, meats, cold cuts, cheeses, breads and bakery goods. The complex can seat up to 1588 people. The history of food and culture is an important part of Eataly. The 14 thousand local products are introduced to the guests with didactic signs explaining the origins of the product and its particular history. There are 8 areas where visitors can observe foods been made, from artisanal pasta to mozzarella. The third floor has a conference room for lectures and there are weekly courses offered throughout Eataly in 8 designated classrooms and info sessions in 40 instructional areas. My favorite spot on the first floor is the fried fish corner, where you can get fritto misto (mixed seafood/fish fry) and a glass of good Roman dry white wine. After that you can have an espresso at the Gran Bar Illy downstairs and browse the bookstore. Eat, then walk it off, and eat again.

Besides offering a vast selection of Italian wines and Italian beers (yes, thats right!), Eataly has old school Italian soft drinks that were popular before the saturation of American soda on the local market. Drinks with funny names such as cedrata and chinotto. I remember having a cedrata at my friends grandparents house in the country outside of Rome; the drink soon after disappeared from my sight never to be seen again. This bright yellow-green drink is made from the fruit of the citron tree brought to Italy by the Arabs in the 10th century. The flavor is hard to describe, it is citrusy but there is a very particular twist to it because it is not made with either lemons nor oranges. Another classic is the chinotto made with the small bitter fruits of the myrtle-leaf orange tree. The color of chinotto is dark the taste is bittersweet and herbal. The same fruit is used to make Campari. Chinotto is considered the old man’s Coca Cola by the young generation although now it is having a resurgence in popularity and is used is cocktails such as the Sotto Chinotto served at Eataly.