"Think of a Mario Batali grade pasta with high nutritional values served in a place that looks like Shake Shack," says Davide Macchi, giving the elevator pitch for Dueminuti. It's a new entry in the booming fast-casual restaurant market blurring the lines between fancy and fast food, and its first location is landing on Seattle's Capitol Hill in August.
The name, Italian for "two minutes," refers to the amount of time it takes to cook the company's pasta; it also alludes to the quick turnover the restaurant is offering those in a hurry.
Macchi and his business partner, Filippo Fiori, have been friends since they met in high school in Tuscany. Macchi is currently finishing his MBA at MIT; Fiori is a chef with a doctorate in nuclear science. A few years ago, the pair noticed there was no Italian equivalent of Chipotle or Panera. Since they set out to change that, others have joined the field, most notably Gerard Craft with Porano Pasta, which opened in January in St. Louis. But Italian cuisine remains underrepresented in the lucrative category.
"Our mission is to use science to modernize Italian cuisine and bring pasta back to the centre of the food scene by making it nutritious and affordable," Macchi tells Eater. "We developed a proprietary pasta formula based on a mix of natural flours and power foods powder, as well as nutrient-optimized recipes inspired by Italian tradition." The duo are currently focus-testing over 20 pasta recipes, anticipating a final menu of two or three pasta types, including a gluten-free variety, in at least a couple of shapes.
If it all sounds a little corporate, that's no accident — Dueminuti is poised to grow into a full-fledged chain. Macchi says the goal "is to scale up to 15-20 locations by the end of the fifth year of operations." It's a far cry from Mike Easton's Il Corvo, which, on paper, serves Seattle something similar but currently has modest expansion plans.
So why start with Seattle? "We were invited to Seattle last year by Mr. Giovanni Saccà, a dear friend of ours who works at Amazon and became our first investor," Macchi says. "We immediately fell in love with the city. Seattle has an excellent food scene and Seattleites have very educated palates: we're confident they'll appreciate the effort we put in developing gourmet recipes for casual dining." He also believes that with its rapid growth Seattle presents good potential for expansion.
Expect the "proof-of-concept store" on Capitol Hill to have an open kitchen and a relaxed feel. "To convey how much we value freshness, transparency and innovation, inside the dining area we will showcase our 'Pasta Lab,'" Macchi says. The lab will hold pasta-making machinery as well as scientific equipment for continued experimentation.
Macchi and Fiori just pitched their business in the MIT Sandbox Innovation Fund Program, and are waiting to hear if the funding board will choose to invest. Look for Dueminuti late this summer; in the meantime, follow along on the company's website and blog, and take a survey on your dining preferences if you'd like to help influence the company's direction.