Pasta Maker Barilla Opens First Restaurant, Aims to Be 'Italian Version of Chipotle'

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It's fairly common to see restaurant brands pop up on the shelves of grocery stores, such as with Baskin-Robbins ice cream and Taco Bell meal kits. Less common: items that start on shelves and evolve into restaurants.

Barilla has been making pasta for 138 years, but only recently opened its first restaurant in New York City. The company is famous for its low-cost dried pasta and more, recently, tangling with gay rights activists after the Barilla Group chairman made homophobic comments in a radio interview. 

Related: How Baskin-Robbins Is Trying Not to Disappear

Barilla's restaurant, Academia Barilla, focuses on Italian staples and fast service. In addition to salads, pastas and paninis, the restaurant sells products such as dried pasta, sauces and olive oil.

Academia Barilla is reportedly aiming to be an "Italian version of Chipotle." The chain is hardly alone in its mission: several chains, including one funded by Chipotle, are competing for the title of "the Chipotle of pizza," fast-casual sushi joints have been categorized as "the Chipotle of sushi" and both Chipotle-backed and independent chains have duked it out for the title of "Asian version of Chipotle." 

Barilla's expansion into the restaurant business reveals a new path to a booming fast-casual market. With restaurants producing increasingly diverse products – Cinnabon now sells air fresheners and Taco Bell markets socks – more items from grocery stores' shelves may soon be opening up their own shops. 

Related: Is This the Year Fast-Food Pizza Disappears?

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