Piero Bambi, honorary president of Italian espresso machine manufacturer La Marzocco, has died.
The son of La Marzocco Founder Giuseppe Bambi and designer of the iconic Linea model machine, Bambi passed away in Florence, Italy, on Sunday, March 22, after a battle with cancer. He was 86.
Bambi’s contribution to the company and to the specialty coffee industry overall spans more than a half century. In early adulthood, he entered the La Marzocco workforce as a technician, later moving into the design of machine components, circuits and other parts. Bambi also coordinated with architects and builders on the design and construction of the company’s production campus outside Florence in 1960.
In the late 1980s he designed the Linea, including its various patented technological innovations. His work in the departments of sales and exports helped spread the influence and popularity of La Marzocco equipment, and by extension, specialty coffee, all over the world.
In 1994, after selling a majority of the company and transitioning into the role of honorary president, Bambi authored the book “Coffee Machines for Use in Bars,” that included both a history of La Marzocco as well as technical advice that remains practical today.
Bambi’s passing not only weighs heavily on the hearts of La Marzocco, its partners and its fans, it also leaves a void where there once was connection between specialty coffee’s past and present generations.
“For more than 40 years Piero Bambi has been my friend, my inspiration, my mentor, my partner and my teacher,” La Marzocco Chairman Kent Bakke said in a statement released earlier this week. “Not only about espresso coffee machines and ‘caffè espresso’ but also life and culture. His contributions to the world of espresso coffee and to the lives of so many people will be remembered and appreciated. He will be missed but not forgotten. Thank you, Piero, for the gift of your spirit and the legacy that you have left for all of us to enjoy.”
In the days before his passing, a representative of La Marzocco told Daily Coffee News that the timing was particularly painful due to restrictions on travel and visitation in place to combat the spread of COVID-19.
La Marzocco closed its factory and facilities in Italy and abroad yesterday for a day of mourning. The company said that funeral arrangements will be made and announced when conditions have improved and pandemic-related restrictions are loosened.
In the meantime, despite these dark days, life at La Marzocco does go on. Though the busy year of new product launches and new model upgrades that LM had planned is now effectively on hold, the representative told DCN that the company continues to provide a livelihood for its workers both remotely and in production.
“We are lucky to be located in a region of Italy that has only been mildly affected by COVID-19,” the representative told DCN last week. “With government approval and oversight, our team has collectively decided to remain producing machines and fulfilling orders, as long as the environment remains safe to do so. Employees of La Marzocco who are able to work from home have been doing so for over three weeks, even before the government has suggested adopting this policy.”
For those clients who find themselves shutting down their machines for an extended period, the company has published a practical guide to maintaining and storing machines appropriately.
Also at this difficult time for the industry worldwide, the company is hoping to promote coffee roasters and cafes in Italy and Spain through @lamarzoccoitalia and @lamarzoccospain on Instagram.
“The idea behind it is to create a sort of virtual ‘True Artisan Cafè’ — La Marzocco’s signature rotating roaster format for shows and events — and encourage our audience to engage with our customers and to try their coffees,” the company said. “As a call to action, we planned a quiz on Instagram through which the followers who respond first and correctly can win a different coffee bag (1 kg) each day with the purchase and shipping costs covered by La Marzocco.”
Other initiatives include an international #lamarzoccosharing social media campaign that encourages the sharing of positive coffee-related stories through contests and product giveaways, and a GoFundMe campaign that will direct financial support to struggling Italian coffee bars.
“A quote from C.S. Lewis’ writing in 1948 has been passed around La Marzocco in recent days,” representative told DCN in an email. “This quote, from a time of nuclear fear captures our approach to the current COVID-19 pandemic. ‘If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things — praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts — not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.’”
Howard Bryman is the associate editor of Daily Coffee News by Roast Magazine. He is based in Portland, Oregon.