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Domino’s leaves Italy, where — surprise — diners prefer local pizza

A closed Domino’s outlet is seen in Rome this month. (Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg News)

Who would have guessed that denizens of Italy, where pizza is an internationally recognized treasure, wouldn’t have gone crazy for mass-produced, over-the-top American riffs on the country’s national dish offered by a multinational chain?

Someone probably should have. Domino’s will no longer be offering its specialty cheeseburger, Hawaiian and bacon-and-chicken-topped pizzas, after the company running the Italian franchises shuttered all of its locations, Bloomberg News wrote. The company blamed reduced demand on a consumer preference for delivery from mom-and-pop shops and for restaurants reopening after pandemic shutdowns.

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Italian company ePizza became a “master franchiser” for the American company in 2015, opening as many as 33 locations, according to an investor report that tracked fourth-quarter results for 2021. But sales were down nearly 38 percent from their projections at the end of the year.

“We attribute the issue to i) the significantly increased level of competition in the food delivery market with both organised chains and ‘mom & pop’ restaurants delivering food to survive and ii) restaurants reopening post pandemics and consumers out and about with revenge spending,” the report stated.

Adding to its woes, digital ordering did not seem to catch on: Although the company’s business model is “heavily geared towards ‘leading edge’ digital technologies,” more than half of orders were made in person or by phone, according to the report, and app downloads had lagged.

Representatives from Domino’s and ePizza did not respond to requests for comment. Bloomberg News and local media also reported that a Milan tribunal this year granted ePizza protection from creditors, but that expired July 1.

As word of the closures spread on social media in the United States, people poked fun at the very idea of the chain’s ambitions (Domino’s had hoped to open as many as 800 locations) in the country where pizza is so revered that an organization exists to protect the traditional Neapolitan style and its twirling preparation won a spot on Unesco’s “intangible heritage” list.

Tweets included: “Omg can u imagine anyone other than drunk American tourists ordering Domino’s in Italy?” and “Trying to open Domino’s pizza in Italy is like trying to sell snow in the North Pole.” Others noted that pizza from local shops is often cheaper than at Domino’s.

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The snark was also rampant across the Atlantic. A recent headline in the Italian daily paper Il Messaggero concluded that “Italians don’t like pineapple pizza: Domino’s is shuttering all pizzerias in the country.” The article mentioned the chain’s American-style menu items such as “Pepperoni Passion” and the “Hawaiana,” noting that such fanciful concoctions had failed to impress purists. “These products would turn up the nose of traditional pizza lovers, while intriguing xenophiles,” it wrote.

Some agreed pizza culture in Italy was just too strong for an American incursion. “Italy repels the invader!” one person tweeted. “Is pizza the last bastion of Italian-ness?” While some defended Domino’s in Italy as being superior to the American version, many in the country were blithe about the chain’s demise. “Domino’s pizza goes bankrupt in Italy,” another tweeted. “Didn’t even know it had opened up shop.”

Stefano Pitrelli in Rome contributed to this report.