At the beginning of the pandemic, restaurants scrambled to find new ways to offer their food to go. Stellina Pizzeria owner Antonio Matarazzo wanted to do something beyond the typical takeout. Why not a pasta vending machine?
“In Italy, but Europe generally, vending machines are already much more popular than here,” he says. “You can go buy wine 24/7.”
Matarazzo found a company in California to build a custom unit. It was supposed to arrive in July, but arrived only two weeks ago. Now, it’s finally up and running in front of Stellina’s Shirlington restaurant and market, which is aiming to open over Valentine’s Day weekend.
The refrigerated vending machine stocks pasta kits that feed three to four ($30), including tonnarelli pasta (a thick spaghetti) with cacio e pepe sauce and fusilli with lamb ragu. You can also buy just the pastas ($5.25) and jars of sauce ($12-$15). Other vending treats include salami, cannoli-making kits, and jars of tiramisu (with spoons for eating on the go) as well as Stellina T-shirts.
The machine integrates with an app that would allow it to scan IDs and theoretically offer wine, too. The function has been approved in other states, but not yet Virginia. “The team is working to see if it’s possible or not,” Matarazzo says.
The custom food dispenser takes credit cards and mobile payment. It also has a LED screen that shows you how to prepare the pasta kits. It’s currently stocked from 10:30 AM to 9 PM on weekends and until 8 PM on weekdays. The hours will extend once the restaurant opens.
The vending machine will stay in Shirlington until the beginning of summer, then Stellina plans to move it in front of another forthcoming location—508 K St., NW—as a preview before the place opens in the fall.
Eventually, Matarazzo envisions installing the machines in office buildings and law offices, so workers could pick up dinner without going to the store.
“There’s no limit,” Matarazzo says.
Stellina Pizzeria. 2800 S. Randolph St., NW.