Fancy Feast’s restaurant pushes the envelope in CPG pop-ups.
For two days in August, a temporary trattoria in New York’s Meatpacking District looked like something the cat dragged in, quite literally. Purina’s Fancy Feast created a pop-up—for humans—that coincided with the launch of its new globally inspired Medleys line-up. The concept, named Gatto Bianco, meaning “white cat” in Italian, was a nod to the brand’s fluffy mascot.
Fancy Feast corporate chef Amanda Hassner teamed up with Cesare Casella, a Michelin Star–winning chef who hails from Italy and now lives in New York, to create dishes that mimic the “sensory experience of cats at mealtime,” a press release stated. Their menu showcased the new Medley flavors through fine-dining (human) dishes such as Tuscan-style spare ribs, braised beef in wine sauce, and baked sea bass. Dessert included lemon panna cotta and a chocolate-topped, heart-shaped almond cake with cocoa dusted into paw prints walking across the plate.
“My role at Purina and with Fancy Feast is to bring human food and pet food into focus together,” Hassner said in a statement. “I prepare and present human food experiences to my colleagues who then create new pet products inspired by those dishes.”
In terms of pop-ups, Gatto Bianco is hardly the most salacious, especially compared to the dumpster supper clubs from summer 2016. It’s also not the first time a CPG brand has created a themed restaurant of its own. One of the most successful, at least for a time, was the Kellogg’s NYC Cafe. In response to an ongoing sales slump, the cereal manufacturer tapped Milk Bar’s Christina Tosi to create the menu for a Times Square pop-up in 2016. The concept was so popular that Kellogg’s opened a permanent location the following year, though its novelty eventually wore off, and the café closed in 2019.
Greek yogurt purveyor Chobani has also ventured into the restaurant space, and at one point even had three locations though it’s now down to one (also in New York City).
But Gatto Bianco breaks the mold on three fronts. First, it was designed as a fine-dining experience rather than a casual café. Second, the pop-up, which welcomed only eight guests total, was a publicity vehicle rather than an inroad to the restaurant sector. And lastly, it centered around a cat food product, not a human one.
Purina has given no indication that it will open another feline-themed concept in the future, but in the meantime, cat-loving foodies can try their hand at home with the Fancy Feast cookbook, which launched last year and is, allegedly, the cat’s meow.