Thank God it was an Italian who did it, is all I can say. The whole idea of making a pizza (including making the dough) in three minutes and serving it out of a machine just sounds bad. But, as the New York Times reports …
Over the last decade, Mr. [Claudio] Torghele, 56, an entrepreneur in [Rovereto, a] northern Italian city who first made money selling pasta in California, has developed a vending machine that cooks pizza … The machine Mr. Torghele and his engineers produced is outfitted with little windows so the customer can watch the pizza being made. As in the Charlie Chaplin film “Modern Times” (in miniature and without Chaplin) wheels turn and gears grind.
The customer presses a button to choose one of four varieties — margherita (plain cheese and tomato sauce), bacon, ham or fresh greens. A plastic container dumps flour into a drum resembling a tiny washing machine; a squirt of water follows, and the drum goes into a spin cycle, forming a blob of dough that is then pressed flat to form a 12-inch disk. Tomato paste is squirted onto the dough and cheese is added before it is lifted into a small infrared oven. The baked pizza then slips onto a cardboard tray and out into the customer’s waiting hands. Mr. Torghele says the pizza will cost as little $4.50, depending on the variety.
More interestingly, the article looks at the renaissance of the automat and the enormous size of the market.
Restaurants reminiscent of the old Horn & Hardart chain in the United States, which are fully automatic, are also showing up around the Continent. Unlike the old automats (the last Horn & Hardart closed in 1991), which were staffed with workers who refilled the machines with creamed spinach and baked beans as fast as customers pulled them out, these restaurants consist entirely of vending machines. In Milan, a two-hour drive west of Rovereto, a franchise chain called Brekky has opened the first three of what is planned to be a large chain of restaurants in which customers can buy cold dishes like salads and sandwiches, and warm dishes like pasta, from vending machines.
North of the Alps, the automat never really died out. In the Netherlands, Febo, a chain started in 1941 by a Dutch baker, now has about 60 restaurants. In France, bright green and yellow Yatoo Partoo machines — the name loosely translates as “You can get everything, everywhere” — sell milk, juice, snacks and sandwiches 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The European vending machine industry, which has grown significantly and now has annual sales of about 26 billion euros, or $33 billion, hopes the trend will catch on …
It is not surprising that the new drive to offer fresh-made food is coming from Italy. Italians may be legendary for long lunches of pasta and wine, but they also lead Europe in vending machines, with more than 614,000 installed, compared with 593,000 in France and 562,000 in Britain, according to the European Vending Association in Brussels.
I don’t think we have any automats in Vancouver. Shame on us. When I was a very young boy back in the early 50s, I’m pretty sure there was one in Chiswick where I lived. And certainly there were one or two automats near Picadilly Circus in the early 60s. Wen I was first in New York in 1967, a friend took me to an automat near Times Square. And I think that’s my entire history with automats. But I love the idea.