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Remembering Domino’s Failed (and Ludicrous) Effort to Establish Itself in Italy

This article is part of our Cocktail Chatter series, where we dive into the wild, weird, and wondrous corners of history to share over a cocktail and impress your friends.

Known for its record-breaking delivery times, excessive toppings, and undeniably craveable cinnamon twists, Domino’s might be considered a global pizza sensation, with almost 20,000 locations worldwide. And while Americans obviously can’t get enough of its signature hand-tossed pies, and other countries like India have hopped onto the Domino’s bandwagon as well, the concepts of cheesy crust and Buffalo chicken toppings just weren’t as appealing in Italy, pizza’s homeland.

Domino’s first set up shop in Italy in 2015 with high hopes. The company was betting on its quick delivery service to impress locals enough for them to abandon their neighborhood mom-and-pop shops in favor of American-style pies, delivered to their doors in 30 minutes or less.

But in a way, Domino’s also knew what it was getting into. In the broad scheme of the restaurant chain’s global expansion, the company was actually slow to infiltrate Italy, and made a number of clever adjustments to try to appeal to what it assumed would be a picky market. The Domino’s Italian website claimed the pizza recipes were designed specifically for Italians, with the country’s traditions in mind. Like the classic Neapolitan pie, the dough would have a longer maturation time and be made from durum wheat semolina flour. The brand even adopted some Italian recipes — like the “Emiliana” pie, featuring Fior di Latte mozzarella, raw Parma ham, and Parmigiano Reggiano, and the “Mantovana,” made with Pancetta Piacentina DOP and Pecorino Romano DOP — but still featured them alongside its stateside mainstays, including the “Cheeseburger Pizza” and the “American Party” pie, topped with french fries.

Despite frequent criticism from locals on social media, the Domino’s seemed to be gaining steam, growing to 29 locations across the country in just five years. (There were apparently some Italians who were “not afraid of putting pineapple on a pizza,” a representative for Domino’s Pizza Italia mentioned in an encouraging statement.) But just after Domino’s unveiled its very ambitious plan in January 2020 to add at least 850 more locations by 2030, the pandemic hit. In a time when eating at restaurants was not an option, local delivery services soared and online platforms like Deliveroo, Glovo, and Just Eat took off in Italy, crowding the field for food delivery. With the local Italian favorites also available to be brought straight to your door, Domino’s was no longer the only show in town. (You can probably guess which of the two Italians preferred.)

The competition in the delivery category started to take its toll, and in April 2022, ePizza SpA, the Domino’s Italian franchise operator, filed for bankruptcy. The company was protected for 90 days after declaring bankruptcy, but when it expired in July of that year, Domino’s was forced to shut down all operations.

Unsurprisingly, Italians were indifferent to the closure, and headlines announcing the company’s departure from Italy underscored that point. “Italians shrug as Domino’s closes stores,” said Reuters. “Domino’s tried selling pizzas to Italians. They didn’t like it” claimed DeseretNews. One Bologna resident told Reuters in a video interview that Domino’s in Italy just didn’t make sense: “Maybe an American pizza chain would have made sense for tourists, but for an Italian, it doesn’t make sense. It’s like me going to England and making fish and chips.”

So, even though Domino’s had a decent run in Italy, it is understandable that Italians would opt for their heritage pie over something called a “MeatZZa” or “American Party.” And honestly, it would be concerning if they didn’t.

The article Remembering Domino’s Failed (and Ludicrous) Effort to Establish Itself in Italy appeared first on VinePair.

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