Thursday, May 4, 2017
Chicago has much to recommend it. But one thing the city lacks is a thriving central market.
Oh, they've tried, ginning up that French Market next to Ogilvy Center. But the place seems tepid and marginal and unpopulated whenever I go there, which isn't often, as I can never think of a good reason to stop by. It suffers from ersatzness, a certain lack of distinctiveness.
Which might be why my wife and I so enjoy visiting real markets in other cities. There's a great one in Los Angeles we've visited several times, called Central Market, and another in Philadelphia—the Reading Terminal Market.
In Florence, it is called the Mercato Centrale, and even in our limited time, we found ourselves drawn back, to stock up on gifts and lunch for our train trip to Venice.
Dried cherries and fresh bread, marzipan seashells and pork sandwiches, with a break for espresso at a stand-up bar. It was the place to buy gifts—small bottles of Limonchello and discs of panforte.
I assumed the place had been there forever -- the hulking iron building it is located in was built in 1874. But the truth is it opened three years ago. So not old, but certainly authentic. Maybe that's why people throng there—you get a sense of farmers and butchers stacking the food they've created. While at the French Market the vibe is of clerks heating up grub.
I wish I could explain why theirs bustles while Chicago's languishes. Maybe readers have an idea.