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      Eataly vs. DDL Foodshow

      October 17, 2010

      Eataly New York, 23rd St. & 5th Ave.  Photo via

      Eataly New York, 23rd St. & 5th Ave. Photo via

      I have fervently been following the opening of the food emporium, Eataly, in New York City.  The reason for my interest is that I was involved in the opening of another Italian food emporium in the early ’80s: DDL Foodshow.  I was hired by film producer, Dino de Laurentiis, to work with the general manager to open the store.  The flagship store was located at 82nd Street and Columbus Avenue, across the street from the Natural History Museum.  It took up the ornate, marble lobby of the Endicott Hotel building which by this time was no longer a hotel but had gone co-op.  The store was quite large for its time.  Much like what Eataly is doing now there were stations spread out around the store: gastronomica, (prepared hot and cold foods), rosticceria (roasted meats and chickens), baked goods, produce, cheese, salumeria, chocolate, coffee and so on.  It was meant to be 1-stop shopping for the upscale neighborhood.  Dino and his team of Italians spared no expense; he brought chefs and managers over from Italy.  Adam Tihany was the designer.  The store had a full on kitchen with an Italian head chef.  Dino wanted it to be like the stores of its kind that he knew in Italy.  Peck in Milan is one such store.  After opening I became manager of the cheese department.  As manager I did all the cheese buying, was responsible for the counter displays, and oversaw a staff.


      The Endicott Hotel Building, 82nd & Columbus, NYC where DDL Foodshow was located.

      It was an exciting project to be involved in as a twenty two-year old.  The job brought me from San Francisco to New York.  It was my first time living there.  My interview with Dino (who is Giada De Laurentiis’ grandfather) at his film offices in the Gulf & Western Building on Columbus Circle was my first visit to New York.  I was very excited to be working with Dino, and living in Manhattan.  New York was a food mecca then and still is now.  Unfortunately, the store and its satellites (one in Trump Tower on 5th Avenue, and one in Beverly Hills) didn’t last more than a few years.  It never really caught on with New Yorkers.  Zabar’s, Balduccis, and Fairway pretty much had the corner on the gourmet food market.  A lot of people came into the store to look when it first opened but rarely returned more than a few times.  Sadly, Dino was ahead of his time.

      eataly bread

      The bread counter in Eataly New York.

      Eataly is an Italian company with five stores in Italy, three in Japan and now one in New York.  Eataly New York is owned by chef Mario Battali and restaurateur Joe Bastianich, and Joe’s mother chef Lidia Bastianich.  The New York store while similar in concept is much larger than DDL Foodshow, and includes several sit down restaurants.  It is broken up in to a series of ‘eateries’: pizza, pasta, fish, produce, salumi and cheese, deli, rosticceria (with a butcher), bread, pasticceria and gelateria, as well as areas for cookbooks and housewares, and finally a wine shop. All of these are pay as you go.  DDL was more like an old-fashioned grocer.  You took a grocery cart from counter to counter and went through a check out line when you were done shopping.  DDL had no sit down restaurants; it did have the rosticceria where you could pick up a roasted chicken, or piece of meat, while the gastronomica had hot and cold prepared foods.  It was possible to buy a completely cooked meal.

      Inside Eataly New York.

      Inside Eataly New York.

      I have not yet been to Eatlay but I am anxious to go.  Definitely on my next trip to New York.  A good friend who actually worked with me at DDL has been and her report is that the food is very good, the store nice but that it is massively confusing as to what one is supposed to do where and when.  She and a friend bought things to eat then sat down at an empty table in one of the many eating points and were promptly told they needed to see the hostess to be seated.  A hostess and a host stand that were not readily visible.  As she described it to me: “Right now it’s an uneasy compromise between a food hall and an eatery.  What you have are various specialty shopping departments spotted with seating areas that have table or counter service.”  That does sound confusing.  Another friend ate dinner at one of the sit down restaurants where the prices were not inexpensive.  He said it was the oddest experience eating a nice meal while people were shopping all around him.  This begs the question: is it a sit-down restaurant, a take-out joint, or a high-end grocery store?  It’s trying to be all three.  Will hard-to-please New Yorkers be okay with this?  Only time will tell.  It does however sound like they have a few kinks to work out.

      I have very fond memories of DDL Foodshow despite the many difficulties of getting a store of its size and kind open.  Dino’s heart was in the right place.  He wanted to share his joy of food and food culture with New Yorkers and Americans.  New Yorkers are a very tough audience; very set in their ways.  Sadly, they weren’t willing or interested enough to make it viable.  I still think Dino was ahead of his time.  This was before the Food Network, and the new Internet-based food movement.  Giada, his granddaughter, has managed to carve out a place for herself.  Time will tell if Eataly is a success.  I’d venture to guess that now is a better time in American food culture to give it a try than twenty-eight years ago when Dino and a group of us attempted it first.

      Shout Outs! Fun, Cool, Interesting, Worthy Things Going on Around Town…

      Pink Ribbon Cupcake from Magnolia Bakery

      Pink Ribbon Cupcake from Magnolia Bakery

      Magnolia Bakery (Los Angeles) ~ Purchase a Pink Ribbon Cupcake, (or several!) from Magnolia Bakery during the month of October.  Proceeds go to the Susan G. Komen Foundation for Breast Cancer Research.

      FoodEvent_LogoLos Angeles Magazine ~ The Food Event: From the Vine 2010 ~ Sunday, October 24, 2010, 1 pm to 4 pm, Saddlerock Ranch, Malibu, California.  The 5th annual culinary extravaganza hosted by Los Angeles Magazine featuring celebrity chefs, top restaurants and wine tasting.  I’ll be there.  Hope to see you.  www.losangelesmagazine/thefoodevent


      Artisanal L.A. ~ A weekend of shopping, tasting, workshops, and hanging out with local artisans.  A celebration of L.A.’s finest local handmade artisanal edibles.  October 23 & 24, 11 am to 4 pm.   I’ll be there (Saturday, 10/23), will you?

      Out of the Box Collective (Los Angeles) ~ A brand new business that home-delivers boxes of local, sustainably produced groceries.  The food items used in the boxes are sourced from artisans and farmers in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties.  Boxes contain meat, dairy, produce, bread, conserves, and regional specialties.  They have a Thanksgiving Feast Box available for the upcoming holiday that will supply you with all the ingredients and a few suggested recipes if you don’t have the time to shop but still want to cook.  Come check them out the Artisan L.A. event on 10/23 & 24 (see above for info).

      My Status:  Fall weather has arrived to SoCal.  Cool, wet even rainy.  More cooking, eating and blogging on the horizon as always.

      News! I am now published!! My recipe ‘Chef Wally’s Baked Papaya’ was selected to be in the upcoming cookbook: ‘Foodista Best of Food Blogs Cookbook: 100 Great Recipes, Photographs, and Voices,’ publish date is October 19, 2010.  You may pre-order it here.  I am thrilled.

      Upcoming Posts: Cookbook Reviews ~ Cider Beans, Wild Greens, and Dandelion Jelly by Joan E. Aller; Mary Mac’s Tea Room: 65 Years of Recipes from Atlanta’s Favorite Dining Room by John Ferrell; The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook by Rachel Saunders.

      18 Comments on “Eataly vs. DDL Foodshow”

      1. Thanks for sharing your memories of DDL. Believe or not, I do remember reading about it when I was a kid!

      2. Phil says:

        Damn, do you have some stories to tell. How exciting that you not only had an interview with DDL, but that he actually hired you to work in his Italian store.

        It’s a shame that it didn’t work out, but the Italian-American markets that do tend to stand the test of time are old time classics like Claro’s, Cortina’s, and (in NYC) Leo’s Latticini on 104th and 46th – just to name a few.

        Props to anyone who tries to bring some European culture to America. We sure as hell can use it. Did you see what Americans flocked to the theater to see this weekend? $50 million spent on Jackass 3-D. God help us all.

        For the sake of all of us, I hope Eataly is a huge success.

      3. Martine Marcus says:

        Wow. Thanks for the blast from the past! Dino interviewed me in Cali at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Hired for the BH store, when the opening was postponed he moved me to New York. Many fond memories of the store Charles. Many fond memories of you! Will get into NYC asap and check out Eataly.

      4. Nicole LaMonte DeGolier says:

        So…when can we expect a LA based Eataly???!!! Sounds wonderful. Reminds me of being able to go to the Central Market in Florence and shop all the booths of amazing produce, meats and other dried goods.

      5. What an exciting time that must have been for you at age 22! Only time will tell if Eataly will survive, but my guess is that the world is more receptive to that concept now than it was then.

      6. Judith R Gordon says:

        I was living on 84th Street and CPW when DDL food show opened. I waiting with great anticipation for it to open. I was not disappointed! I loved everything about the place!
        I was sorry to see it close but I can still remember the smell!

      7. Sean Sulivan says:

        I remember DDL foodshow and how excited everyone was — a big time Hollywood producer! Epic in size and scope! Lavisly appointed and prohibitively expensive! I have yet to drag my lazy bones down to Eataly. The NYT’s passive/aggressive write up plus early reports from friends have dampened my enthusiam. But go there I will. Sooner or later.

      8. bigpalooka says:

        DDL Foodshow was spectacular. I remember huge roast turkeys being paraded through the packed aisles. It was expensive too. A couple of years after it closed, I worked at the Waldorf Astoria with a guy who was a pastry chef at DDL Foodshow. He made fruit tarts in the DDL style – 3D, bright and colorful, too beautiful to eat.
        Nothing has come close to the presentation since, not even Eataly.

      9. evandolah says:

        Actually, DDL did have a sit down restaurant. I am certain of this because I waited tables there from the day it opened until the day it closed (which was about 8 months). It was my first restaurant job in NYC. I too interviewed for the job at Dino’s film offices at the GW building. The food we served was unbelievably beautiful and delicious, but I must say that the restaurant was terribly mismanaged which resulted in many, many disgruntled customers.

        For the most part, I remember DDL Foodshow as just that: a food show. The place was always very crowded with people who came to look at the show, but few were willing to pay for it when Zabar’s was just a five minutew walk away.

        I was sad to see it close, as there was nothing else quite like it in NYC at the time, but it was simply too expensive.

      10. Hi Evan: thanks for the comment. I was at DDL Foodshow during the first year of operation, and during that time there was no sit down restaurant. I believe that came later when Dino and his managers were trying out different things to see if they could make it work. They did what they could to make it viable but it was not meant to be.

      11. Donna Dee says:

        visited Eataly,
        what an Italian experience!
        I saw things i have never seen before
        we ate and drank and enjoyed every moment and bite
        Mangia, Mangia, Mangia!!

        I Thank the Chefs for bringing Italy to NYC!

      12. Lauren says:

        Thank you for sharing this post. My father was very involved with the BH location. I have fond memories of being a little girl sitting with the grown-ups and admiring those amazing food displays! Dino was an amazing man who exemplified class all the way.

      13. james corbin says:

        I work at DDL,with Walter Fillipini, Pascuale, Nikki and Ruggierio it was something. As a matter of fact, when I first went to Eataly I said to my wife, this is like a larger DDL Foodshow. I also remember interviewing with Dino, who’s big wooden desk was so big he could barely reach across to shake my hand. I remember interviewing with the chefs, they spoke Italian to the interrupter and I spoke English. Nut in the next couple months by the time we were ready to open all 4 of them were conversational in English. It was astounding how quickly they pick up the language. We had some fun times, Flying to Atlantic City of People’s Express out of Newark to go gamble and coming back in the wee hours to start work again. Oh to be young(with money) in New York City.

      14. Ciccio meriano says:

        Hi , I Was working for Ddlfoodshow in New York and Then in beverly Hills. I remember walter nikki and ruggerio at the kitchen. Do you remember a worker in the bakery named Nicola? I don’ t remember his last name and trying to find him……….

      15. Hi Ciccio, I also remember Waltar and Ruggiero but I don’t remember Nicola in the bakery. I’m sorry! Ciao, Charles

      16. Amy says:

        Thanks for bringing back fabulous memories!

        I worked at DDL Foodshow in NYC for it’s reincarnation in July 1984. The food was amazing! They made two different lasagne’s, one al bianco (all white) 4 cheese lasagne and the other with spinach noodles and bolognese! The 4 cheese lasagne melted in your mouth!

        There were at least twenty chefs from Italy, living in the hotel above the store. When I was there, none of them could speak English.

        The best was the breads from the bakery! In the morning, two bakers would enter the back of the shop carrying a 6 foot wood tray with a 6 foot long loaf of Italian bread still crackling from the oven! Even if you had your back turned, you knew when the bread came in because it filled the shop with the most wonderful smell. That was my breakfast with some butter melting as I slathered it on.

        It’s true, people would meet in DDL Foodshow, look around, and then head over to Zabars! It was like a food museum! But they didn’t know what they were missing.

        The manager then was also from San Francisco!

        When I moved to San Francisco in 1986, I was hired at Vivande Porta Via on Fillmore by Carlo Middione, based on my experience from DDL Foodshow. The manager was very impressed! I loved working at Vivande. There was a great working atmosphere.

        Since Vivande also sold books, I ended up buying the Carol Field’s cookbook, The Italian Baker, so I could bake the Coccodrillo (crocodile) bread I had only had at DDL. It was the best bread ever! Yum, I think I’ll have to make some Crocodilo now!

        Happy Thanksgiving!

      17. Hi Amy! Thanks for leaving your comment. Your descriptions of DDL are exactly how I remember them. The 20 chefs who didn’t speak English, the bread on the long board, the two lasagnes and so on. Too bad it didn’t work. Maybe it was ahead of its time. Dino had the right idea. I also knew Carlo and Vivande from my foodie days in SF. I’d be quite surprised if we never crossed paths. In ‘84 I was back in SF helping Jeremiah Tower out at Stars. All the best, Charles (Are you still in the food world?)

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