Massimo Bucolo bravely dared to go where no one else had gone before to take a slice of Italy’s competitive pizza market: a 24-hour vending machine that makes freshly baked pizzas in three minutes.
Located at 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 met with a mixture of curiosity and disbelief on the part of Roman pizza lovers in a city filled with street eateries serving sliced pizza (pizza by the slice).
“When I first saw the machine and learned how it works, I totally fell in love with it,” said Bucolo, entrepreneur. “So I did a lot of research and spoke to many 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, and therefore Mr. Go Pizza is the first to operate around the clock.
“I wanted to fill a gap in the market – so many people called me, especially those who work nights, asking if it’s open, because for them it’s a real solution if they are hungry when everything else is closed, ”he said. .
Passers-by looked suspiciously at the Mr Go Pizza machine in Via Catania on Friday.
“I would never eat machine pizza,” Ludovica said. ” It’s horrible. “
Francesca Giuliani, 25, said: “Maybe it tastes good, but I don’t really want to. I prefer to go to a pizzeria.
Alexandra, another curious observer, said: “It’s a little sad to see a pizza come out of a machine.”
Others in the neighborhood gave more favorable opinions. “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 a.m., they can: he’s a friend of the market, not an enemy.”
Bucolo insists he doesn’t do away with the work of pizzerias, nor does he try to replicate the traditional Italian pizza. “The big mistake is to think that this is an attack on the pizzerias or that it will put them in 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, 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 must quality”, did he declare.
Sebastiano Di Troia, here owned a sliced pizza nearby store, takes the new rival in its stride. He honed his pizza making 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 traditional pizza making that gives the product its flavor and crunch.
“The difference is in the taste – you’re going to try one on the machine, then come back here and try a real one,” said Di Troia.
There was an attempt to do just that, but by the time the Guardian returned to Mr. Go Pizza’s stand, the machine was not functioning properly – a danger to the vending industry.
“He was having some ingredient processing issues 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.”