Rome's New Pizza Vending Machine Promises a Freshly Made Pie in About Three Minutes
Some locals are unsure what to make of it.
If you're in Rome's Nomentano district, between the University of Rome La Sapienza and the elegant Villa Torlonia, you might notice a bright red vending machine tucked into a small yellow alcove on Via Catania. But instead of bags of chips or cans of soda, the recently installed Mr. Go machine will prepare a fully cooked pizza in around three minutes.
The Mr. Go machine can make four different kinds of pizza—margherita, four cheese, spicy pizza alla diavola, and a pancetta-topped pie—and they cost between €4.50 ($5.50) and €6 ($7.30) each. According to The Guardian, it served its first made-to-order pie on April 6, and has sold about 900 of the single-serving pizzas in the days since.
"When I first saw the machine and learned about how it works, I totally fell in love with it," Massimo Bucolo, the entrepreneur behind the machine, told the outlet. "And so I did a lot of research and spoke to a lot of food suppliers, ensuring that the ingredients would be of the highest quality. People are mocking the product without even having tried it."
He's right: A reporter from Reuters spoke to a few locals, who responded by immediately rejecting the idea of a machine-made pie, to shrugging it off as not-quite-pizza. One university student said the resulting product was more like an ultra-thin piadina bread wrap than the kind of pie she'd expected. "It's OK but it's not pizza," she said.
Bucolo acknowledged the piadina comparison to The Guardian, and said that Mr. Go orders aren't meant to replace what you'd get from an actual pizzeria—it's just meant to be a freshly made, inexpensive option for busy students at the nearby university, or for night shift workers who might be hungry when they clock out in the early morning hours. "We have neither the pretense nor the arrogance to consider our product equal to or better than a pizza made in a pizzeria," Mr. Go said, according to El Periodico. "Our mission is to offer a valid alternative within the world of food."
The pizzas are made to order, right after the customer inserts their money and presses the button. That prompts the machine to mix a combo of flour and water, press it into the appropriate pizza shape, and to add the toppings that have been vacuum-packed until that moment. Then it's cooked at 380 degrees, transferred into a small box with cutlery, and dispensed to the customer, who's barely had time to post about the entire process on Instagram.
Bucolo told The Guardian that Italy has three other pizza vending machines scattered from Marche in the center of the country, to Calabria at the toe-tip of Italy's boot, to the island of Sardinia, but they're not available to pizza-starved visitors 24/7 the way his Mr. Go machine is.
We'd probably check this out, just for the novelty of it—and then we'd have to visit one or two or six other in-person, human-operated pizzerias for comparison. That seems fair.