It was a cheeky bid to grab a slice of the action in the home of pizza.
But US chain Domino’s has admitted failure in its attempt to conquer Italy and has said a hasty arrivederci.
After spending seven years trying to persuade Romans and Neapolitans that popular American pizza toppings – such as pineapple – were not a sacrilege, it has closed all its 29 Italian stores.
Domino’s, which has more than 1,100 UK outlets, arrived in Italy in 2015 hoping to cash in on the home delivery market.
The firm said it aimed to open 880 stores and would use ‘purely Italian’ traditional ingredients such as prosciutto, gorgonzola, grana padano and mozzarella.
But Italy’s notoriously perfectionist diners proved hard to please.
They turned their noses up when Domino’s offered US-inspired varieties such as the cheeseburger topping, the pepperoni passion and, worst of all, the pineapple-strewn Hawaiana.
The coronavirus pandemic also saw potential customers flock to local, often cheaper, restaurants for home-grown options.
Domino’s main market in Italy, according to the firm’s detractors, was just “drunk American tourists”.
The US fast food giant shut its stores across Italy after local franchise holder ePizza went bankrupt.
ePizza, which had debts of nearly £9million, has blamed the COVID pandemic lockdowns and a significant rise in the level of competition, particularly from more traditional Italian outlets, for the decision to shut its restaurants.
The firm said: “We attribute the issue to the significantly increased level of competition in the food delivery market with both organised chains and “mom and pop” restaurants delivering food.”
Italian newspaper Il Messaggero offered a more withering assessment of Domino’s attempts to win over the country.
“Italians don’t like pineapple pizza”, it said, claiming Domino’s menu “would turn up the nose of traditional pizza lovers, while intriguing xenophiles”.
In Italy, pizza is such a way of life that the original, traditional Neapolitian has protected status and strict requirements, while the art of dough twirling in Naples has even achieved Unesco world heritage recognition.
One online commentator said bringing the US chain to Italy was like “trying to sell snow in the North Pole”.
Another wrote: “May we all have the insane confidence of the Domino’s executive who pitched opening in Italy.”
But some American takeaway giants remain unperturbed by the pizza chain’s fate.
Starbucks has opened 16 stores across Italy in the hope of tempting coffee traditionalists away from the country’s much-loved espresso bars.
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