Barilla hopes to put last September’s PR disaster involving chairman Guido Barilla telling gay people to “go and eat another brand” of pasta behind them. And what better way to do so than by opening a casual eatery in midtown Manhattan? Because if there’s one thing New York needs, it’s another discount Italian restaurant.
Academia Barilla is a cafeteria-styled lunch destination that offers affordable pasta dishes, pizzas, salads and paninis, all made from Barilla pastas and jarred sauces available at your local grocery store usually for under $1.99. Or, as CEO Stefano Albano describes it to the Wall Street Journal, “Americanized stuff.” He adds, “We are in business to also please people. That’s why I have Coke.”
The pasta giant hopes the new restaurant will become “the Italian version of Chipotle,” whatever that means. But by the looks of some Yelp reviews, they’ve got a long way to go.
“Bland mediocre Italian food ordered cafeteria style and served at communal tables for the area office workers to sustain themselves while performing their daily drudgery,” one person wrote.
“The food here straight up sucks,” another reviewer said.
“The place is usually packed with tourists,” someone else added. “Additionally, it’s some of the worst pasta I have ever tasted… This is midtown NYC – standards should be somewhat higher.”
But Albano doesn’t seem too concerned with the negative response. He told Wall Street Journal that he’s already started looking for two other locations in Herald Square and Bryant Park.
According to the restaurant’s manifesto, their aim is to “bring families around the table, where happiness, friendship and celebration is shared, old relationships are nurtured and new ones created, every time.”
We can’t help but wonder if that includes gay families.