Not Little Italy. Big Italy.

Not Little Italy. Big Italy.

Wish your restaurant was close to a great food market where you could grab artisanal-quality ingredients right off the shelf? If so, you might want to follow the lead of chefs like Mario Batali, Jose Garces and Todd English, who have reverse-engineered the process by opening their own food markets and putting new restaurants inside them.

Let's start our tour of these new wave food emporiums with a look at The Plaza Food Hall [2] by Todd English, located on the lower level of the legendary New York City hotel. The 5,400 sq.-ft. venue contains a sit-down restaurant, the Ocean Grill and Oyster Bar; six prepared-food-to-go stations that offer everything from burgers and Asian dumplings to wood-fired pizzas to cupcakes from English's 17-year-old daughter, Isabella; and a retail market where shoppers can score fresh produce, fresh fish, butcher-cut meat and Italian specialty products plus the cookware you'll need to prepare it all.

Plaza Food Hall opened in June and is a culinary wonderland, indeed. So is the Jose Garces Trading Company [3] in Philadelphia, another European market-style venture anchored by a chef-driven restaurant (see the June 2010 Restaurant Hospitality, pp. 10-12). Scheduled to come later this fall is Jeffrey Chodorow's Food Parc, a slightly different spin on the a food market/food court idea. It will have branded stands from high-profile New York City chefs like Ed Brown, Michael White and Zak Pelaccio. Food Parc will be located inside Kimpton's new Eventi hotel in Manhattan's Chelsea district.

Set to open this month is Eataly, the New York City branch of what is described as “the largest artisanal Italian food and wine marketplace in the world.” The original Eataly is in Turin, Italy, and there's another one in Tokyo. The 42,500 sq.-ft. U. S. version is the brainchild of Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich and Lidia Matticchio Bastianich.

They're teaming with Eataly's Turin-based founder Oscar Farinetti on this project. It's located just off Madison Park in New York City's Flatiron district, just a literal chip shot from Danny Meyer's now-legendary Shake Shack (and just seven short blocks away from Chodorow's proposed Food Parc).

Mario Batali Joe Bastianich

POWER PARTNERS: Mario Batali (above) and Joe Bastianich (at right) import the Eataly concept to the U.S.

Here's how the people at Batali & Bastianich Hospitality describe their new project.

“The marketplace will be the city's ultimate destination for food lovers to shop and taste and savor — an extravaganza that will include a premier retail center for Italian delicacies and wine, a culinary educational center, and a diverse slate of boutique eateries. This gourmand's delight will feature cured meats and cheeses, fruits and vegetables, fresh meats, fresh fish, handmade pasta, desserts and baked goods and coffees.

“Each retail area will be paired with its own dedicated restaurant, including a wood-fired pizza and pasta bar, a cheese and salami counter, a beef restaurant, a vegetable restaurant, a crudo and seafood bar, and a classic Italian bar serving gelato, espresso and wine. There will be a separate wine shop, bakery and patisserie. On the roof will be a 4,500 sq. ft. open-air rooftop beer garden serving pizza and sausage.”

So they're going big, although not necessarily on the wage front. A recruitment ad on Craig's List [4] reports that Eataly's bussers, barbacks, food runners, stockers and porters will make $7.25-$8 per hour; counterhelp, info booth, and admin workers $8-$11 per hour; and servers and bartenders $4.25 per hour plus tips.

Eataly should be open by the time this issue of Restaurant Hospitality hits your mailbox, but permit delays have been known to hold up New York City restaurant openings indefinitely. Still, the end result should be something unlike anything the food world has seen before, Turin and Tokyo being the exceptions. If you want to see where restaurants might be headed next, keep a close eye on Eataly and its close-cousin concepts from English, Garces and Chodorow. Culinary prowess aside, these guys are sharp businessmen and able discerners and amplifiers of trends. We think they're on to something big here. If you see a potential location in a densely populated or highly trafficked part of your local market, think their approach over.