The idea of a pizza vending machine doesn’t sound half bad, but setting up one in Italy, where they practically invented pizza? Now that’s a recipe for disaster.
One of Rome’s first automatic pizza dispensers, “Mr. Go Pizza,” was recently installed in Piazza Bologna. In three minutes, it cooks four different types of pizza costing from about $7 to $9 (4.50 to 6 Euros). After the machine kneads the dough and adds toppings, customers can watch their pie cook behind a small glass window.
Locals are not impressed, to say the least. On Thursday, Reuters reported that customer reviews ranged from “acceptable if you’re in a hurry” to outright horror.
“It’s OK but it’s not pizza,” said Naples native and university student Fabrizia Pugliese in an interview with the outlet. She described the taste as more like a “piadina,” a super-thin soft unleavened bread wrap popular in northern Italy, than a pizza.
“It looks good but it is much smaller than in a restaurant and there is less topping,” said Claudio Zampiga, a pensioner, in an interview with Reuters.
Gina, another pensioner who declined to give her last name, called the whole concept “terrible.”
“Pizza really needs to be eaten hot, immediately,” she told Reuters. “This doesn’t work for me.”
The machine’s location isn’t doing it any favours either. Down the road is a Napolitano restaurant that uses a brick oven, a must-have for any authentic Neopolitan pizza. In fact, many Italians would argue that a large part of the classic pizza experienced is watching the pizzamaker, or “pizzaiolo” knead the dough and cook the pie while you wait at your table. So you can see why getting a slice made by a robot might be considered sacrilegious.
“I wouldn’t even think of eating a pizza made by a machine,” Giovanni Campana, a customer at said restaurant, told Reuters.
While people have been eating pizza-like flatbread dishes for centuries, the roots of modern pizza are largely traced back to Naples, Italy, where it was popular street food for the poor. The 19th-century Neopolitan chef Raffaele Esposito is widely credited as the inventor of the classic “Pizza Margherita.”
As the story goes, Esposito created the dish in 1889 in honour of Italy’s unification, using basil, mozzarella, and tomato as toppings to represent the colours of the Italian flag. The debut of something like a pizza vending machine so close to his hometown no doubt has him turning in his grave.