Rome Gets Its First Pizza Vending Machine. Will Romans Bite?

ROME — Romans eat pizza on a regular basis.

They have pizza a taglio, lower with scissors to the specified measurement and heaped with toppings, for lunch. They snack on pizza bianca, with out something on it, or pizza rossa, with simply tomato sauce, or pizzette, little pizzas. “Pizza scrocchiarella,” spherical and skinny crust, the kind Americans may greatest acknowledge, is sort of all the time reserved for dinner.

Essentially, Romans will eat pizza, right here and there, they may it eat wherever. But would they, may they, eat it out of a merchandising machine?

Massimo Bucolo, a medical machine salesman turned pizza entrepreneur, is betting they may. He has put in Rome’s first no-hands pizza machine in a bustling neighborhood inside strolling distance of the capital’s foremost college.

He’s hoping that the merchandising machine — which makes a contemporary pizza from scratch in precisely three minutes — will catch on with Rome’s pizza-loving inhabitants, particularly after hours, when conventional spots are closed and the clientele is, let’s consider, much less discerning.

“I’m not trying to compete with pizzerias, I’m proposing an alternative,” Mr. Bucolo, 46, stated one current night shortly after he had topped up the machine with cheese.

The reactions so removed from pizza aficionados are maybe what you’d anticipate in a metropolis that gave start to one of many world’s first cookbooks, believed to have been written throughout the first-century reign of the Emperor Tiberius. Granted, Rome is just not Naples; in 2017 UNESCO put the hundreds of Neapolitan pizza makers, or pizzaiuoli, on its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. But Romans are no less than as dedicated to their pizzas, UNESCO recognition or not.

VideoOur reporter Elisabetta Povoledo tries Rome’s first no-hands pizza machine.

Renzo Panattoni, an proprietor of one of many metropolis’s oldest pizzerias — identified to Romans as “the Morgue” due to its marble-topped tables — was dismissive. Vending-machine pizza, he sniffed, “has nothing to do with traditional pizza.”

He stated he was certain locals would stay trustworthy to the thin-crust model his restaurant has been serving since 1931 although the thicker-crust Neapolitan pizza has been making vital inroads within the metropolis.

And meals journalists and bloggers have primarily turned up their noses, with one evaluating the merchandising machine’s creation to a pizza she’d eaten in a rundown space of the Ecuadorean Amazon whereas on a mission with Oxfam.

“I was massacred,” Mr. Bucolo stated.

But the critics could also be counting out the sense of journey that Mr. Bucolo is bound his fire-engine-red merchandising machine can encourage.

On a current night, two IT employees stopped to ogle the equipment, and to eat. Customers can watch the machine do its work by means of glass panes, and the 2 younger males recorded the method on their telephones.

Wheels turned, the flour and water had been combined, the dough was kneaded, pressed right into a disc and slathered with toppings (this half unseen) earlier than being cooked in an infrared oven and eventually plopped right into a paper field: a piping scorching margherita, the tomato and mozzarella staple. “It’s what I call the curiosity pizza because it’s the one that costs less and people are more likely to buy if they just want to try it,” Mr. Bucolo stated.

The margherita choice prices four.50 euros, or about $5.50, whereas the costliest, at €6, is the 4 cheeses.

One of the tech employees, Maurizio Pietrangelo, guess that his buy can be adequate. “It’s always going to be better than the frozen supermarket pizzas,” he stated. “At least I expect it to be,” he added earlier than wishing Mr. Bucolo luck and strolling away along with his pizza.

The entrepreneur behind the pizza merchandising machine hopes to capitalize on late-night clients and people intrigued by the automated course of.Credit…Filippo Monteforte/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Virginia Pitorri, a repeat buyer on the merchandising machine, stated she had returned as a result of her younger daughter, Ginevra, loved the expertise a lot the primary time. “She likes to watch the machine, it’s fun for her,” she stated.

Mr. Bucolo hopes that when the preliminary curiosity wears off clients will return as a result of getting a pizza from a machine is each enjoyable and attractive. And as a result of the machine is open throughout the evening, he hopes his pizza will make inroads with folks like taxi drivers who work whereas the remainder of town sleeps. “That market is wide open,” he stated.

The pizza machine is the brainchild of Claudio Torghele, a northern Italian businessman who labored with companions and numerous college colleges for years earlier than formally unveiling the primary machine in 2009, manufactured by an organization he referred to as Let’s Pizza.

Even he’s somewhat stunned at Mr. Bucolo’s gambit, establishing a machine in a metropolis with no dearth of pizzerias. “We never thought that we’d ever have a machine in Rome, but there you have it,” he stated.

The machine holds sufficient components — together with numerous toppings — to make 100 pizzas earlier than needing to be refilled. Mr. Bucolo’s machine presents 4 selections: margherita, 4 cheeses, spicy salami and bacon. He may even have chosen turkey as a topping however thought that is likely to be going somewhat too far. “I will never include it,” he stated. “I want to keep tastes close to Italian palates.”

The merchandising machine’s infrared oven makes it particularly speedy. Credit…Yara Nardi/Reuters

It’s not the one pizza merchandising machine in the marketplace. PizzaForno shares freshly made pizzas that may be heated within the machine (in three minutes) or taken house chilly. Pizza ATM says on its web site it might prepare dinner as much as eight premade pizzas concurrently in 4 minutes. But the Let’s Pizza machine, which is bought in a number of European nations, is the one one to make pizza from scratch. “Others have tried to copy us and failed,” Mr. Torghele stated.

If Mr. Bucolo is scared of encroaching on a sacred staple, he is likely to be heartened by the expertise of Domino’s Pizza, which opened its first Italian venue in 2015 and now has 34 eating places, principally within the north.

The firm has opened 5 websites in Rome since final November, suggesting that it has made inroads with town’s diners. Chiara Valenti, advertising and marketing supervisor of Domino’s Pizza Italia, attributed the success partly to beating opponents on supply occasions, and adapting to native tastes.

Domino’s additionally counted on the notion that there have been loads of adventurous Italians who had been open to sampling “new tastes,” she stated, like cheeseburger pizza or BBQ rooster pizza.

“These are people who are not afraid of putting pineapple on a pizza,” Ms. Valenti stated, a reference to the often-derided ham and pineapple combo in style in lots of markets however “a taboo in Italy” as a result of it’s related to a lower-quality product. “That’s just a stereotype,” she stated.

Unlike lots of his compatriots, Marco Bolasco, a outstanding meals journalist in Italy, was extra equivocal in his evaluation of pizza newcomers. He stated pizza was “a design concept” that leaves gastronomic room for merchandising machine pizzas and Domino’s. Such pizza is seen “as an exotic object, like sushi or hamburger,” he clarified, including, “There’s interest, but for an Italian it’s like eating something that’s not really pizza.”

Dario Cuomo, a screenwriter, was a considerably simpler mark. He purchased a pizza with a few pals, who commented on the dough preparation (not sufficient time), cooking technique (too violent) and its look (a Saltine). Then he took a chunk.

“Not bad,” he declared, “considering it was made by a robot.”

A completed pizza comes out of the machine, which holds components for as much as 100 pizzas at a time.Credit…Andrew Medichini/Associated Press