The announcement two weeks ago that Australia’s first vending machine pizza was available in Sydney sent me into sampling mode.
Just as people remember their exact whereabouts during significant world events, I remember my first taste of homemade pizza: it was Italy, mid 1970s and my non-pizza eating parents and I had been invited to a special family lunch. By contrast, would my first taste of vending machine pizza this week in a stadium-sized shopping mall be memorable?
Bracing myself for the bland surroundings of a food court, I instead imagined myself somewhere a little grittier. The opening scene of Saturday Night Fever came to mind. I couldn’t recreate 1977, nor request the Bee Gees, but my black pants and oxblood boots had me channelling John Travolta/Tony Manero strutting Brooklyn’s streets eating pizza.
Giorgio Pompei, owner/chef of Pompei’s pizzeria/gelateria at Bondi Beach has invested considerable cash into perfecting what he describes as “the world’s first artisan pizza vending machine”. He is confident his pizzas are superior to the mass-produced ones from vending machines in Italy, France and the USA. His Pizza Gio product is partially cooked at the Bondi restaurant, then chilled and transported across town to the Chatswood food court. The Italian-made machine – which holds 42 Margherita and 42 hot salami pizzas – then dispatches them in three minutes.
I really wanted to be at the takeaway window of Lenny’s Pizza in Brooklyn to say “Two, gimme two … that’s good” just like John/Tony did, and then slap one slice onto the other. Instead I stood in front of a 2m x 2m beige box, swiped my credit card and waited for Pizza Gio to give birth to a $12 Margherita.
The 11-inch pizza comes in an open box – uncut. Although hungry, I didn’t fancy pushing it into my mouth whole. What would John/Tony do? Probably fold it into a calzone, but not wanting the mess, I began a desperate hunt for a knife. A couple of laps of the food court later, stolen knife and serviette in hand, I’d earned my lunch and Stayin’ Alive seemed an appropriate song to eat to.
I gave a big tick each for the crispy crust, the fresh tasty tomato and mozzarella topping and the distinguishable basil aroma. No ticks though for its lukewarmness after the mad food court dash looking for something to cut it with. Perhaps it’s aimed at pizza lovers who live or work nearby, or people who carry knives.
Compared to the original, very good Pompei pizzas in Bondi, these stack up remarkably well. But will customers favour Pizza Gio over the cheaper, well-known pizza brand on sale a few metres away? I’d hope so, as there are plans to expand the business throughout Sydney and beyond in the future.
(The writer paid for her own pizza.)
And now, here’s the real Tony: