Friday, January 30, 2009

Peck di Milano

The very best food windows in the world are at Peck in Milan, Italy. Better than Dean & DeLuca, and Balducci's in New York. Better than Harrods Food Hall, and Fortnum & Mason in London. Better than Fauchon and Hédiard in Paris. The first time I stood before a Peck window was in the early 80s. I stood for a full half-hour looking and studying. I was on a buying trip for a new job I was starting in New York: helping Dino de Laurentiis open his short-lived DDL Foodshow on the Upper West Side. We had been to the Périgord in France and eaten an all foie gras lunch at the Petrossian factory (a chateau cum factory). We had toured all the wonderful food shops in Paris and London. But Peck was a revealation.

An Italian friend, Paolo, was recently in Milan for the Christmas holiday. He took the picture attached here: a Peck Christmas window, and seeing it reminded me of my visit to the store. Prior to going on the three week food tour of Europe, I had been the cheese manager at Oakville Grocery, a gourmet food shop in San Francisco, where I designed the cheese display. I already had a bit of experience at artfully moving huge wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano and English cheddar into a position that would appeal to the buyer's eye, and stomach. But my work was nothing compared to the cheese window at Peck.

They seemed to grasp the idea of scale, texture, and color perfectly. The window was large and deep. It was piled high with all manner of cheese; they literally came cascading down and forward to the street. There were wheels of reggiano, asiago, and pecorino one atop the other, multiple hanging scamorze, provolone, and buffala mozzerelle in wooden containers of water. The effect was big and bold. It drew me in. I wanted to be in the middle of all that cheese. I went from window to window along the via Spadari looking at the other Peck windows; the salumeria full of all types of cured meats: salami, hams, speck; the gourmet window full of every type of olive oil, jam, jelly, and pasta sauce, again stacked high and full. Little empty space. No fancy cloth, or decoarations. Just the food.

The Peck windows I saw were about the food more than window dressing. The boldness of scale pulled me into the middle and made me want to eat. At the other shops I saw in Paris and London the displays were beautiful, the food pristine and perfect, but they didn't make me want to climb into the middle with knife and fork and start to eat. The Peck windows had this effect. The most beautiful food windows in the world.

Photo credit: Paolo Sacca

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