Dough to go: Rome’s first pizza vending machine receives mixed reviews | Pizza

MAssimo Bucolo bravely dared to go where no one else had gone before in order to take a slice of the competitive pizza market in Italy: a 24-hour vending machine that serves freshly made pizzas in three minutes.

Set up in a stand in Via Catania, near Piazza Bologna in Rome, Mr Go Pizza offers four varieties, including the classic margherita invented in Naples in 1889, each costing between € 4.50 and € 6. Customers can watch through a small glass window as the vending machine kneads and coats the dough.

It started operating on April 6 and has since sold around 900 pizzas, which come in a box and with cutlery.

The concept encountered a mixture of curiosity and disbelief on the part of Roman pizza lovers in a city filled with street eateries serving up pizza al taglio (pizza on the side).

Pizza al taglio at Gabriele Bonci, Rome. Photograph: Rachel Roddy / The Guardian

“When I first saw the machine and learned how it worked, I totally fell in love with it,” said Bucolo, an entrepreneur. “So I did a lot of research and spoke to a lot of food suppliers, making sure the ingredients would be of the highest quality. People laugh at the product without even trying it.

According to Bucolo, there are three other pizza vending machines in Italy – one in Calabria, one in Sardinia and one in Marche – but they are found in closed spaces, such as shopping malls. the clock.

“I wanted to fill a gap in the market – so many people called me, especially those who work at night, to ask if it’s open because for them it’s a real solution if they are hungry while everything else is closed, ”he said. .

On Friday, at the Mr Go Pizza pizza machine in Via Catania, passers-by received many suspicious looks.

Claudio Zampiga awaits his order at Mr Go Pizza.
Claudio Zampiga awaits his order at Mr Go Pizza. Photograph: Yara Nardi / Reuters

“I would never eat pizza from a machine,” Ludovica said. “It’s horrible.”

Francesca Giuliani, 25, said: “Maybe it tastes good, but I don’t really want it. I prefer to go to a pizzeria.

Alexandra, another curious observer, said: “It’s a little sad to see pizza coming out of a machine.”

Others in the neighborhood gave more favorable reviews. “This is very useful if you are hungry late at night and there are no other options,” said Giorgio Girgis, who runs a nearby flower stand open 24/7. .

Luigi Sadano, a young businessman, was visiting Mr. Go Pizza because he is intrigued by the concept and eager to replicate the idea in other areas of Rome. “The vending machine market is changing strongly,” he said. “If people want to eat pizza at 4 am, then they can: he’s a friend of the market, not an enemy.

Bucolo insists that he doesn’t take work away from pizza makers, nor does he try to replicate the traditional Italian pizza. “The big mistake is to think that this is an attack on the pizza makers or that it will plunge them into a crisis,” he said. “In fact, Mr Go’s end product is not the same as the pizza they make … it’s a cross between a pizza and a piadina [a thin Italian flatbread]”.

Angelo Iezzi, the president of the Italian Pizza Association, said he was puzzled by the arrival of Mr. Go. “Innovation and technology go hand in hand, but so does quality,” he said. declared.

Sebastiano Di Troia, owner of a pizza al taglio nearby store, takes the new rival in its stride. He honed his pizza skills at a pizza school in Rome and says it’s “real Roman pizza”. The dough it uses is fermented for 72 hours, a process used in making traditional pizzas that gives the product its flavor and crunch.

“The difference is in the taste – you’re going to try one from the machine, then come back here and try a real one,” Di Troia said.

There was an attempt to do so, but by the time the Guardian returned to the Mr Go Pizza stand, the machine was not functioning properly – a danger to the vending industry.

“He was having issues processing the ingredients so we preferred to shut him down and fix it,” Bucolo said. “But we maintain the machine, clean it and make sure the ingredients are fresh every day. “

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