VERONA, Italy — Elena Galeotto, a longtime employee of Melegatti, Italy’s original producer of standard pandoro Christmas cakes, scooped this season’s final mound of dough from the conveyor belt, rounded it and dropped it into a deep, star-shaped cast.
“That’s the last a single,” Ms. Galeotto mentioned. “I hope it’s not the final a single.”
That there are nevertheless any loaves on the factory floor at all — or, for that matter, laborers — has made for what the Italian press has christened a “Christmas miracle.” Amid tough economic times and the bankruptcy of other iconic Italian brands, most recently the hat maker Borsalino, the Melegatti saga is getting greeted as a fable.
In the months ahead of Christmas, workers have been striking for their unpaid wages. The heirs of the company founder, Domenico Melegatti, who patented the “golden bread” in 1894, seemed to be operating the spot into the ground and feuding so bitterly that workers compared them to fair Verona’s Montagues and Capulets.
With production halted, Motta, Alemagna and other Milanese heavies began cornering the Christmas cake marketplace with candied-fruit-filled Panettone cakes.
Then, salvation came, as is so frequently the case in Christmas stories, in the kind of a Maltese hedge fund. It invested millions of euros for an 11th-hour production of 1,575,000 cakes. The committed personnel, operating without spend, took to the web and started a social media campaign that would make Tiny Tim proud.
“Eat a pandoro, save a job,” Melegatti supporters wrote, employing SaveMelegatti and WeAreMelegatti hashtags to urge their fellow Italians to acquire a cake that for them was as good as gold.
The apparently organic advertising and marketing campaign worked much better than a corporate notion in 2015, which had resulted in a backlash for encouraging customers to “love thy neighbor as you would adore thyself. As extended as he or she is hot and of the opposite sex.” This time, pandoro lovers around the nation responded with patriotic zeal, creating a run on the conventional blue cardboard gift boxes and staving off layoffs. Labor activists, politicians and other individuals jumped on the bandwagon.
Cécile Kyenge, a former government minister, wrote in assistance of the workers on Twitter, calling the circumstance a “Christmas fable with a pleased ending.”
Luca Quagini, a management consultant that the hedge fund has brought in to run the firm in its crisis period, struck a more cautionary tone. “So this Christmas miracle is a miracle, but it is peanuts,” he mentioned.
Sitting close to what he named the “situation area,” littered with binders and suited consultants and a devoured pandoro, Mr. Quagini explained that Monday’s final batch of 5,000 cakes was intended to make positive Veronese clients had been not left out in the national purchasing spree. As for November’s 1.five million cakes, he said they had helped Melagatti sustain presence on the Italian market, which was vital because of the spike in demand.
But supermarkets, he said, were playing the function of Scrooge.
They had currently counted Melegatti out when they made their Christmas plans, and to move inventory as the holiday approached, cut the cost of competitors’ cakes, which in the previous have sometimes been sold for much less than a loaf of bread. Due to the fact of the strict parameters of their court-approved restructuring plan to repay about 30 million euros in debt to workers and suppliers, Melagatti had significantly less pricing flexibility.
And Easter looms. Production of the dove-shaped cakes known as colombas will want to commence in days if they are going to hit the sweet spot of the Easter market place.
“Let’s hope there will be Easter,” Ms. Galeotto said. “From what we hear, there will be.”
On Oct. 14, 1894, Domenico Melegatti patented his recipe and pandoro, as it is now universally identified in Italy, was born. Depending on whom you ask, pandoro goes back to ancient Rome or the Middle Ages or the doge of Venice’s Palace. Melegatti constructed an empire off the cake, and it conquered Italy, although it by no means quite went international.
Efforts to crack the American market, said Matteo Peraro, 36, a union representative and, since 2004, one particular of Melegatti’s master bakers, hit a snag when the cake’s powdered sugar set off alarm bells throughout the anthrax scare.
Earlier this week, as the last batch of pandoro dough rose in a heated area, Francesca Massalongo, a neighborhood Verona tour guide, pointed out to a group of American tourists the stately Melegatti palace, which when housed the historic bakery but now plays host to a shoe shop.
“Can you see what’s that,” she stated, pointing at a single of the two stone cakes standing gargoyle-like atop the constructing “It’s a pandoro. Believe me, it’s extremely strange to locate a Christmas cake on the top of a historical constructing.”
Around Verona, there have been hardly any blue Melegatti boxes in the storefronts. Rather, Bauli, the crosstown rival with recognizable pink pandoro boxes, sponsored the Christmas trees in the city’s well-known piazzas.
And at Dolce Locanda, the bakery of the celebrated chef Giancarlo Perbellini, the sophisticated staff sneezed at the mass-created cakes. Their cakes utilized Belgian butter, glistened yellow from the finest eggs, and have been hand mixed. They also cost at least 3 occasions as a lot.
“It’s artisanal,” said Moreno Pelligrini, who put birthday candles for a diner’s birthday in pieces of Perbellini pandoros at one particular of the chef’s associated restaurants, Locanda 4 Cuochi.
The workers of Melegatti had adequate problems with no worrying about foodie snobbery. As a machine poured 610 kilos of pale pandoro batter from an huge aluminum bowl, Mr. Peraro, the union representative, stated, “It’s a shame we can only make so couple of.”
He began operating right here to spend for college, then stayed on to help his loved ones. He spoke with a sense of awe about the days when the factory floor had more than 1,000 workers, and a constant flow of cakes marched on the conveyor belts. But as he explained how the various machines and robots function nowadays, he hinted at a considerably far more systemic threat to the hundreds of endangered Melegatti workers.
“There weren’t these machines,” he stated.
But that is a difficulty for a future Christmas. These days, the company is enjoying a blizzard of interest. In the lobby, exactly where decades-old Melegatti television commercials played on a loop (they featured scantily clad Native Americans or primitive-seeming Africans, all enraptured by pandoro) the secretary was busy referring inquiring consumers to the on-site shop.
The shop, painted in the company’s yellow and blue colors, was mobbed with locals loading up on boxes full of pandoro cakes. Less desired models — chocolate chip, limoncello — had been left on the emptied shelves. Behind the workers, racks complete of deformed cakes labeled imperfect slumped in clear plastic bags. They were sold without the blue boxes.
As night fell in the parking lot, households loaded up their trunks and youngsters, with their arms full, balanced the cakes on their forearms.
Cristina Borghese, 42, filled her trunk with a half-dozen pandoros for relatives. She saw the social media campaign, she said, and wanted to do her element to make confident the workers had a merry Christmas. “It’s a very good brand,” she stated. “I wanted to give a hand.”
Published at Fri, 22 Dec 2017 14:36:07 +0000