Giorgetto Giugiaro’s Inventive Marille Pasta

In 1983, Voiello, a subsidiary of the well-known Barilla Pasta, retained the Italian industrial designer Giorgetto Giugiaro to design a new shape of pasta. Giugiaro, a prolific car designer among whose designs one finds the De Tomaso Mangusta, the BMW M1 and the infamous DeLorean, accepted the challenge.

The food manufacturer from Naples required that the pasta not absorb too much sauce, that it increase its volume in water, that a dish of Marille weigh about half of a dish of spaghetti, and that in the midst of the nouvelle cuisine craze, that it be eye-catching. Also, they demanded that, like with any good pasta, it should retain the sauce. Adhering to Neapolitan pasta tradition, the outer side of the pasta shell was to be left smooth.

For the project, one can easily say that the designer “engineered” the pasta, the same way he engineered many of his other products. The pasta, Giugiaro said, is all about structure, much like a car. Each shape of pasta is designed to be the vehicle to certain types of sauces. One may even say that pasta is but the vehicle for the sauce – or as Christopher Hitchens once brilliantly said in reference to what Perrier soda was to his Whisky, the “ideal delivery agent.”

But back to pasta… As we know, there are shapes conducive to light, oily, or creamy sauces. Others are best suited to carry heavier ones such as Ragus or Bologneses. Voiello opted to hire Giorgetto Giugiaro based on his technological experience with the processes of industrial production. Giugiaro, once at work, opted for a continuously extruded shape, pulled through draw plates.

The food manufacturer had considered Bruno Munari, another of the great industrial designers from Italy – imagine the uproar and the utter marketing failure the pasta would have been if the firm had chosen a designer from another country for their pasta. The Marille was introduced to the public during a lavish event at the Domus Center in Milan, a vernissage designed and produced by Alessandro Mendini.

Like some of Giugiaro’s car designs, reportedly a Lamborghini and one for the manufacturer Bugatti, the pasta was a total failure. Many blame its demise, not to Giugiaro’s design, but on the fact that the Marille’s initial distribution was limited to just a few places and people were not able to find it. Others say that the pasta cooking time was considerably longer than that of other pastas. Worse yet, there were reports of its complex curves hindering an even “al dente” perfection.

The Marille was not among Giorgetto Giugiaro’s many accomplishments. Nevertheless, he took it wisely, once saying, “…but I owe my popular fame to the Marille; It even got me published in Newsweek”.

Other designs by Giugiaro include Cars for Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Audi, Lancia, Lexus, Bugatti, Mazda, Porsche, Fiat, Toyota and For, among other, plus Seiko watches, Beretta firearms, Nikon Cameras, and Ducati and Suzuki motorcycles.