Thursday, May 4, 2017

Mercato Centrale



     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.
       

10 comments:

  1. West Side Market in Cleveland is just absolutely divine. It's worth the trip.

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    1. It's looks great -- I tried to go when I was in Cleveland for the Republican Convention, but it was closed. Next time.

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  2. We tried the Milwaukee Public Market. It felt like the French Market, only very dark inside. Made us want to get back outside as quickly as possible.

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  3. my wife a real foodie and professional cook took me to clevamds westside market 10 years ago when we were visiting her family in cleveland. so great! anyway she says the average chicagoan has a palate formed around deep dish pizza and beef sandwiches. she thinks we see a place like Eataly as an amazing epicurean experience. i guess we're dullards or rubes. and this from someone from CLEVELAND

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  4. I wandered into a similar market in Okinawa once, didn't even know if was on the map as a tourist spot.

    Back in Macon, Ga there is a flea market called Smileys, last time I went there were a bunch of delis and pastry shops doing brisk business, hopefully they're still plugging along.

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  5. Don't believe the food market in Florence opened only three years ago. The second floor was renovated then, installing a number of fast food operations, but the main part downstairs has been there for years. Most tourists are more apt to think of the Mercato Centrale less as the food market than the many stalls that ring it selling leather goods, scarves, neckties and a host of other non-edible items.

    I think one reason that European food markets are more vibrant is because most households, and even restaurants, lack huge refrigerators that permit buying groceries in bulk. Makes people more used to daily shopping for foodstuffs.

    Tom

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    1. Seconding this -- I was going to post wondering whether maybe it _re-opened_ three years ago, as I had shopped there in 1999 and in 2003, and my then-wife and her family years earlier. My memory was the in-building market was only fully open a few days a week, with the stall vendors migrating to an open-air flea market down the Arno away from the city center on an additional day or two a week.

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  6. Most Italian towns have an open air market one day a week. In Florence it is in the Parco della Cascine, which run along the river, every Tuesday.

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  7. The federal government says the systems put in place by the State of Illinois to prevent potentially catastrophic damage to pipelines is “inadequate”, because of lax enforcement by the city of Chicago.

    From NBC 5 -- WMAQ-TV

    --Please stop destroying yourself CHICAGO

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  8. I am glad that I finally got a chance to check out this place. Great views, food is nice. The quality of service at LA venues was great, and the environment were pretty comfortable. I’ll say I will look forward to visit again.

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