Barilla, the multibillion-dollar dried pasta company, recently opened a fast-casual Italian restaurant in Midtown. Academia Barilla, as the restaurant is called, is the first of its kind for Barilla, which until now has only dealt in the boxed pastas and jarred sauces found in grocery stores. The menu, of course, centers on pasta, and according to the Wall Street Journal "skews more toward the Olive Garden variety of Italian food" with dishes like puttanesca, alfredo, and lasagna "with a heavy dose of sauce." There are also personal pizzas, panini, and salads, all of which are ordered at a cafeteria-style counter but then delivered to the table on melamine plates. Dried pasta, jarred sauces, oils and vinegars are for sale as well, in fancier packaging than the grocery store versions.
The company reportedly envisions Academia Barilla eventually becoming "an Italian version of Chipotle." The website already refers to Academia Barilla Restaurants in the plural, and CEO Stefano Albano is currently searching for two more locations near Herald Square and Bryant Park. He also hopes to work with local farmers to create a more seasonal menu, and to offer cooking classes centered on seasonal produce.
· Italian Pasta Makers Take a Bite Out of the Big Apple [WSJ]
· Academia Barilla [Official Site]