On the way over to the fabulous reconverted gorgeous train station buildings of Rome's Stazione Ostiense (a stone's throw from the Pyramid - I love it when I can type stuff like that), we debated if it wasn't a bit like bringing coal to Newcastle. I mean, you can get wonderful treats - I imagine at a fraction of the cost (after all, their motto is 'High Food') - at your local grocer's. My Vote? Put it all in one place, with easy-on-the-eye merchandising and exceptional customer service (okay, make that so-so customer service, we'll still take it), and it'll be a winner -- if nothing else for the novelty of food courts that have nothing to do with the American-style of grazing, pigs-feeding-at-the-deep-fried-trough style.
|Eataly, now open at Rome's Stazione Ostiense area|
(right near the pyramid)
Parking was actually easy as people were coming and going at a nice clip. So were the cars trying to run you down in the final 10m sprint to the entrance. Gazing up in awe at its cathedral ceilings reaching up to the heavens and sparkling white dècor, Eataly may have looked like a modern shrine built in a post-war part of Rome, but the cat-and-mouse game with car bumpers brought you back down to the netherworld. Real fast.
Once inside, fairly good bilingual signage conceived by seemingly ex-Ikea graphics teams seemed to do the trick nicely. Although it was still a bit confusing...we couldn't tell if you could sit and order from anywhere, or if you could only order from the section nearest where you were seated (we believe that is the case - I don't know for sure, for reasons that shall follow). The idea of mob seating and then waiting for orders to be taken was highly disconcerting to me and my fellow anglo-saxons -- It may work in New York City where waiters take tips quite seriously, but I don't know how it will play in the piazza...where no one stands in line, and waiters usually take the "wait" part verrrry seriously. So, you had to either hover over a table and try your luck at grabbing it, or, in some places join a line being formed. I would have preferred the "go up to the counter / get your food / bring to table" type of food court, but, of course, I'm used to food courts sporting stadium seating for the 24-hour grazer (in the good 'ol USA). The problem with (or, actually, benefit of) places like Italy is that the dinner hour is quite precise (even though in Rome it's much more flexible than say, Milan). So, it looked like all of Rome had descended on Eataly - all at the same time. Let's just say, there wasn't stadium seating for these stadium crowds.
Needless to say, after three of us cruised tables as if looking for a hot pickup in different sections and across different floors, drooling at the bit for some of the gorgeous meals being heaped on plates and delivered by young Italian versions of Mercury riding up and down the escalators, we called it quits. We hoped it was opening week crowds, but...I have a feeling, it'd be best to go early or much much later - always. Entire families seated there, young trendy couples, and everyone - everyone - sporting a smile on their face. It looked like so much fun, we wanted to pull up a chair and join right in (alright, alright...that was our stomachs talking)...
All told, seeing thousands of people wandering up and down, in and out, it did bring to mind my favorite Berlusconi quote: What economic crisis? The airlines are overbooked, and restaurants are full...and he hadn't even heard of Eataly yet [well, if you don't count the heaps of monies paid out to politicians in bribes for contracts and illegal bids and buildings which the Italians like to call...'Eating' - an Italian speciality, so, Eataly works too].
We decided to drown our sorrows at a wonderful trattoria in nearby San Saba to enjoy a meal, but it was so over-crowded, we only did get served a delicious meal well after 10:30 at night...a full 90 minutes from our first sprinting steps (at the crosswalks) into Eataly. I had never seen so many people at my locale. We wondered if they were the 'Eataly reject crowd'. Nonetheless, it did cause my friend to provide his own recap of our evening:
First, you take us to a place with tons of food and no tables.
Then, you take us to a place with tables but no food.I couldn't have said it better myself.
*note: colored areas are often live links