What started out as Oscar Farinetti’s dream to make high-quality food accessible to everyone, has become a food lover’s paradise unlike any food store in North America. The affable Farinetti, who also owns Fontanafredda Winery in Piedmont, Italy, was in Toronto recently to scout some possible locations for the chain he founded and to promote his winery to Toronto media.
At a roundtable hosted by Roberto Martella of Grano Restaurant, and held at Frank Restaurant in the Art Gallery of Ontario, Farinetti provided an overview of what he is hoping to accomplish with his specialty store concept, while answering questions about his proposed Toronto store and winery.
Eataly was born in Italy, earlier this decade, as a means to promote good, clean, fair food and the precepts of the Slow Food Movement, which was founded by Farinetti’s good friend Carlo Petrini. Unlike any food store currently in North America, it features a green market with some of the best Italian products available; mini restaurants where customers can sample foods, buy artisanal wines and beers or take away prepared foods; and educational workshops with cooking classes or culinary history lessons, including where and how said food was grown as well as lessons on how to prepare it. “I don’t want just rich people to have the privilege of tasting great food,” said Farinetti, in explaining the motivation behind the concept.
Eataly boasts five units in Italy, but plans are underway to launch in Tokyo and New York. The sprawling, new 70,000-square-foot New York location will open across from the Flatiron Building this coming August, in partnership with restaurateurs Mario Batali and Joseph Bastianich, who will run a total of eight restaurants within the concept, including an 8,000-sq.-ft. roof-top brewery and eatery.
When not working on the Eataly concept, Farinetti is actively involved in the Fontanafredda winery with 64 per cent ownership in the historical spot, which was started by Italy’s King Vittorio Emmanuele in 1858.
While the company’s noble past remains intact, the winery has changed with the times. Recently, a 500mL bottle for its Barolo Serralunga D’Alba, was introduced. It’s the only such product of its kind and hits shelves at the LCBO May 15. Priced at $29.95, the wine is packaged in a bottle that features 85 per cent recycled glass as well as a smaller wine label.
Farinetti is proud of the company’s focus on “clean soil to produce clean grapes for a clean wine.” No pesticides or chemical fertilizers are used in the vineyards, and the winery has a three-year target to reduce 50 per cent of the sulphites permitted in the wines.