Shopping for the best Italian foods at Eataly in Turin

Unless you’ve gone there on business, you’ve probably never been to Turin, in the Piedmont region of Italy. Although it’s an interesting, attractive city – as much French as it is Italian – it’s not a major destination for travelers.

The seat of the House of Savoy from the 14th century through the Italian unification in 1861, Turin’s broad boulevards and piazzas are similar to those that were popular with the French court. There are two interesting churches in Turin, including the Cathedral of San Giovanni where the famous shroud is occasionally displayed, and an excellent museum of Egyptian art. There’s also fun flea markets in Piazza della Repubblica on Saturdays.

For lovers of Italian food, Turin is well worth a visit, especially if you’ll be in Milan, which is only 80 miles away. Because one of the most impressive food complexes in the world is based in Turin. Cleverly named Eataly, it opened in 2007 and showcases Italian foods and wines that are sanctioned by the Slow Food movement.

Equal parts cooking school, restaurant row, and food and wine market, Eataly lets visitors taste, purchase, and learn about the best foods and wines in Italy in one spot. It’s located in the old Carpano vermouth factory, which was built in 1908 and is a short stroll from the Convention Center. With 118,000 square feet of educational areas, eateries, and markets, it’s very impressive.

You’ll find the best of everything – salumi, cheeses, meat, seasonal local produce, fish, fowl, pastries, breads, and more – in the 27,000-square-foot market. The salumi market has more than 150 different kinds of cured meats. There are more than 200 cheeses to choose from. And you’ll see more kinds of pasta than you ever knew existed.

Coffee, loose tea, chocolate, and a wide array of sustainable and slow foods are available. You can buy more than 200 kinds of beer and choose from a huge selection of wine – 48,000 bottles are displayed.

A huge, wood-burning oven produces bread, Neapolitan pizza, and focaccia. And there are prepared foods you can take away. Eight restaurants, two cafes, and a gelateria serve more than 100 different dishes every day. All the beef is from Piedmontese cattle, and the grilled fish was in the Ligurian Sea hours before.

For something more ambitious – and expensive – try the 50-seat Guido per Eataly restaurant. Husband and wife team Claudio and Anna Vincina update classic Piedmontese dishes like vitello tonnato and bollito misto and accompany them with superb local wines like Barolo, Barbaresco, and Barbera.

Some of Italy’s top chefs teach cooking classes in specially designed, 30-seat kitchens and then serve a multi-course meal created especially for the occasion. Each course is paired with an Italian wine selected by one of the sommeliers. There are also separate educational areas, tastings, and classes on beer and wine.

There’s a scaled-down version of Eataly in Toyko. And American food luminaries Mario Batali, Nancy Silverton, and Joseph Bastianich — the team behind L.A.’s Mozza and Pizzeria Mozza — are bringing the concept to New York. Their Eataly, which is scheduled to open on August 31, 2010, will feature 20 different departments, a Dogfish Head brewery with roof bar, and a Batali fine-dining restaurant called Manzo.

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