Visitors to Italy may recall lingering over plates of al dente pasta studded with fresh tomatoes but that doesn’t mean Italians enjoy such slow, seasonal meals on a daily basis. Like any other industrialized Western nation, Italian eaters crave shortcuts that maximize productivity and deliciousness. Viva la Mamma box from Beretta wants to be one such shortcut.
Viva la Mamma box offers Italian consumers pasta and rice dishes ready in two minutes in the microwave. The product belongs to the Viva la Mamma brand, which reimagine nostalgic meals for busy lives. There are six flavors ranging from pasta carbonara and penne with tomato sauce to risotto Milanese and mushroom risotto. Just like mother used to make.
Yet she didn’t serve dinner like this. The container resembles a Chinese take-out carton. While reading the triangular shape as a Chinese food carton might be an easy leap for American audiences, the use of this icon illustrates the sector of the Italian community the company aims to reach. Although Chinese food is slowly gaining acceptance in Italy, it still remains a niche cuisine more likely to eaten by young urbanites with international experience than by families or older generations. At the same time, American pop culture presents the Chinese food carton as a take away meal, reinforcing the association between the box’s shape and an internationally-minded consumer. Through their distinctive box, Beretta associates a nostalgic product with youth and internationalism.
The product’s branding strengthens this connection. Marketing themselves as a so-called freedom food that mediates between fast food and Slow Food (an Italian food movement that preserves traditional foodways), the box’s functioning highlights the tension between innovation and tradition within Italian society. It can go in the microwave, replacing the need for a full kitchen when preparing a meal. A plastic fork sits inside the box, providing the tools to enjoy a meal outside of a typical dining space. This emphasis on dining outside of set times and locations reappears in the commercials, which show people eating Viva la Mamma Box at their desks, while watching television and as a quick snack. The package teaches consumers how fast food habits, such as eating on the go and multi-tasking, can combine with slow food memories, like pasta meals and mama’s cooking, to mediate between of modern practices and past customs.
Designer Luciano Semeria mentions that the design of the ‘X’ in the word box works to personify the term and associate this novel product with dynamic youth. Even in the design of the logo, the idea of the box becomes a prime actor, suggesting that Italians who ingest this product identify themselves with a manner of eating as well as the food eaten.
Viva la Mamma Box from Beretta illustrates how one Italian company seeks to use international symbols to teach young Italians how their international tendencies can be reconciled with their Italian customs. On one hand, young Italians are looking for a new way to eat. On the other hand, they want to eat what their mother made them. By presenting familiar foods in a new way, Viva la Mamma box attempts to teach Italians how fast food and slow food can live together in their modern routine.