SUBWAYassimo Bucolo bravely dared to go where no one had gone before to grab a slice of the competitive Italian pizza market: a 24-hour vending machine that serves freshly baked pizzas in three minutes.
Located at a booth in Via Catania, near Piazza Bologna in Rome, Mr Go Pizza offers up to four varieties, including the classic margherita invented in Naples in 1889, each costing between € 4.50 and € 6. The vending machine kneads and finishes the dough, a process that customers can observe through a small glass window.
It went into operation on April 6 and since then has sold about 900 pizzas, which are delivered in a box and with cutlery.
The concept has been met with a mixture of curiosity and disbelief on the part of Roman pizza lovers in a city full of street food establishments serving sliced pizza (pizza per slice).
“When I first saw the machine and learned how it works, I totally fell in love with it,” said Bucolo, an entrepreneur. “So I did a lot of research and spoke with a lot of food suppliers, making sure the ingredients were of the highest quality. People are making fun of 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 in closed spaces, like shopping centers, so Mr Go Pizza is the first to operate around the clock.
“I wanted to fill a gap in the market; many people have called me, especially those who work night shifts, asking if it is open, as for them this is a real solution if they are hungry when everything else is closed,” he said. .
At the Mr Go Pizza machine in Via Catania on Friday, there were many suspicious looks from passersby.
“I would never eat pizza from a machine,” Ludovica said. “It is awful.”
Francesca Giuliani, 25, said: “It might taste good, but I really don’t like it. I’d rather go to a pizzeria. “
Alexandra, another curious observer, said: “It’s kind of sad to see pizza come out of a machine.”
Others in the neighborhood gave more favorable reviews. “It comes in handy if you’re hungry late at night and there are no other options,” said Giorgio Girgis, who runs a nearby flower stand that is 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 evolving strongly,” he said. “If people want to eat a pizza at 4 am, they can do it: they are a friend of the market, not an enemy.”
Bucolo insists that he is not taking jobs away from pizza makers and he is not trying to replicate traditional Italian pizza either. “The big mistake is to think that this is an attack on pizza makers or that it will send them into a crisis,” he said. “In fact, the final product of Mr Go is not the same as the pizza they make … it is a cross between a pizza and a piadina [a thin Italian flatbread]”.
Angelo Iezzi, president of the Italian pizza association, said he was puzzled by the arrival of Mr. Go. “Innovation and technology go hand in hand, but also quality,” he said.
Sebastiano Di Troia, owner of a sliced pizza nearby store, is taking the new rival in stride. He honed his pizza making skills at a pizza school in Rome and says his is “true Roman pizza.” The dough it uses is fermented for 72 hours, a process used in the traditional making of pizzas that gives the product its flavor and crunchiness.
“The difference is in the taste: you go and try one from the machine and then come back here and try a real one,” Di Troia said.
There was an attempt to do just that, but when The Guardian returned to the Mr Go Pizza stand, the machine was malfunctioning, a hazard to the vending industry.
“I was having trouble processing the ingredients, so we preferred to turn it off and fix it,” said Bucolo. “But we maintain the machine, clean it, and make sure the ingredients are fresh every day.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism