A community-based approach to business

London’s new marketplace is an authentic slice of Italy

A space dedicated to the best of Italian artisanal food, including the fantastic Gelatoria Badiani, Mercato Metropolitano is creating a new community vibe in south-east London through food

Many see London as a crossroad of different cultures. By soaking in different identities, you would think of London as a single place where millions of identities thrive and express themselves. Like many European capitals, diversity and creativity is what makes London a pioneer in urban redevelopment. It is not a surprise then to see Elephant and Castle, an area known for its low-cost shopping outlets and its large Latin American community to experience a revival.

A great opportunity is therefore lying ahead for Mercato Metropolitano, an urban space dedicated to fresh Italian artisanal products, which is today leading the way in reinvigorating derelict and underused land.

Mercato Metropolitano is more than just a market. Spanning over 45,000 feet, this urban space aims to reinvent the way we think about food and the values that lie within. The Mercato Metropolitano is a reaction to large-scale industry that flocks to central London and absorbs spaces recklessly. By reacting to the models that want everything to be big and majestic, Mercato Metropolitano is the first urban market that is based on the basic principles of ‘small is beautiful’ and ‘natural is good’.

There is a strong community feel that lies within Mercato’s success. Considering the number of visitors and returning customers, south-east London seems to have welcomed the initiative with great enthusiasm. Bringing together the best products from various Italian regions, what makes the Mercato Metropolitano really stand out is not only the quality of the products but also the fact that the market aims to connect people with the product, the territory and the do-it-yourself way ofliving. Through live demonstrations, cooking classes, art exhibitions and performances this space is one that offers a platform for creativity and entrepreneurship.

Mercato Metropolitano has its origins in Turin, which has a long-standing entrepreneurial tradition and is the land of the legendary hazelnut chocolate paste Gianduja. From Turin to London, Mercato Metropolitano encapsulates the passion for alternative spaces that reconnect the environment to the homely feeling typical of fresh Italian artisanal produce. Based ina former paper factory, the London branch has welcomed a great number of Italian small producers, proud of their cultural and gastronomic heritage. The ethos is based on the idea that small things are better, which ties nicely with the Italian motto, “Nella botte piccola c’è’ il vino buono” (Good wine comes in small barrels). From pizza chefs to fishmongers, finishing off with exquisite authentic gelato, Mercato Metropolitano proudly supports local traders, small producers and independents who want to reach a wider audience while keeping it bespoke and high quality.

The market forms a space that looks into the habits of locals and besides bringing good quality products closer to their door, it also offers them a healthier and more sustainable way of living. All the products are strictly non-industrial in scale withevery business involved sharing the principle that quality is a simple concept. Mercato Metropolitano’s mission is not only to offera space to socialise in, but also to instil the Italian principles of healthy and fresh food within the local community.

One particular success story of how Mercato Metropolitano encourages these principles can be found in Gelateria Badiani. A renowned brand in Italy, the Florence- based gelato maker was popular in London even before launching its new store. After winning the Gelato Festival London in 2015 and being one of themain sponsors of the 2016 event, Badiani’s demand in the city has been growing day by day, driven in no small way by the great choice of flavours available in the Badiani market store. Not just another gelato business in London, Badiani’s recipes date back to the 16th century, when the Medici family instructed the architect from Florence, Bernardo Buontalenti, to make a special dessert for the Spanish delegation coming to visit. Considered the creator of modern gelato, Buontalenti’s recipe has been inherited and passed down until it reached Paolo Pomposi, co-founder of Gelateria Badiani. With only four simple ingredients, the recipe of the creamy flavour Dolcevita hasn’t changed since then.

Along with its renowned brand, Badiani is showing its character as authentically Italian at its core, demonstrated by the strong roots both locally and with its homeland. This is reflected in the strong link that is tying all businesses in Mercato Metropolitano together as they share the same passion and commitment for community. Like many food stalls populating the Mercato, Badiani has invested in the cause to support victims of the earthquake that recently occurred in 

Italy – Badiani has in fact launched a new ‘Amatriciana’ flavour in honour of the town devastated by the disaster. This is just one example that shows that the Mercato Metropolitano has a profound commitment in promoting a positive message from its business to both the local community and also internationally.

Tradition and the community-based approach are the two main pillars that support Italian culture, and the MercatoMetropolitano seems to have absorbed theseprinciples. As part of he scheme for the urban redevelopment of the area, Elephant and Castle has a wider mission to encourage a new way of living for Londoners that cares more about the actual substance rather than the form.

It is clear that while food lies at the heart of Mercato Metropolitano, it is more than just a location to source good food. And with the surrounding community seeming to have perfectly understood that message the outcome can only be positive.