Nando Ottavi was just 18 years old when he made his first coffee on an espresso machine for Nuova Simonelli Founder Orlando Simonelli undefined
in 1964. Fifty years later, he hasn’t stopped.
“As soon as I joined the company I was immediately involved in many projects that fascinated me and I worked so hard that I was immediately included in the research and development office,” Ottavi says.
Growing up in a traditional Italian household, Ottavi says he had an appreciation for coffee long before he considered it a career. Working for a company that produced coffee machines, however, would bring great responsibility, as Ottavi would later find out.
As a young employee, Ottavi says Orlando Simonelli, or “Engineer Simonelli” as all the employees called him, was a person of great professionalism, seriousness and humility.
“He applied these three characteristics every day in everything he did. I learned a lot from him working side by side,” Ottavi says.
Orlando created his first espresso machine called 1936, aptly named after the year it was manufactured, which was considered an innovative machine for that period. When Orlando passed on in 1971, Ottavi took on a role far greater than he could have imagined.
“When, together with some colleagues, I took the opportunity to acquire the company, I took on the role of President of the new business. I felt a great sense of responsibility and I worked hard to carry on our big project which is now called Simonelli Group,” Ottavi says.
Under the group, the company owns the Nuova Simonelli and Victoria Arduino trademarks, and includes 19 product lines covering traditional and super-automatic espresso coffee machines and grinders.
Over Ottavi’s 50-year career, he’s witnessed the group’s development into some of the industry’s most renowned and iconic machines, which started with 1936, and moved into production of the Eureka coffee machine in 1950, the first in the world with continuous delivery and hydraulic pump, followed by the Isx.
“The first great technical innovation you never forget,” Ottavi says. “It was the early 80s. At that time we put the electronics into the new ISX machine. I consider the ISX the first ‘international espresso machine’ for Nuova Simonelli. It was also the first machine built in the new company headquarters in Belforte del Chienti.”
Prior to the 2005 opening of the new facility, Nuova Simonelli operated out of Cessapalombo, then Tolentino in 1946 and Belforte del Chienti in 1976 until the company made the transition to a new 32,000-square-foot headquarters, showroom and museum facility adjacent. At this facility, the company has seen the creation of the first superautomatic machine called Logica in 1984, the Program in 1985 with onboard computer, the Aurelia and Microbar in 2003, the unveiling of T3 technology in 2011 with thermal stability, the Mythos on-demand grinder in 2013, the Victoria Arduino Black Eagle espresso machine in 2014 and Mythos 2 in 2017.
“My favourite machine is the VA388 Black Eagle, the official machine of the World Barista Championship (WBC) and chosen by many specialty coffee shops and big chains,” Ottavi says.
The Simonelli Group has had a long history with the prestigious coffee competition as the official technical partner. The Aurelia was first selected as the machine of choice for the WBC in 2008, followed by the VA388 Black Eagle.
“It is important to understand the needs of the barista community. Since the 80s, our research team has included different figures (researchers, baristas, engineers, suppliers and consultants) to study solutions that can both meet the needs of baristas and anticipate new needs,” Ottavi says.
In the past few years, automation has challenged the outlook of coffee preparation, but Ottavi says it’s a role that can live with traditional methods in order to meet different needs. “We must continue to carry out research and spread the culture of coffee in the world. I am very confident,” Ottavi says.
With the pressure of developing machines that perform and outlast the cohort of competition on the market, Ottavi says the company’s decision to invest in service and establish branches that deal with distribution and training is key. The Simonelli Group currently has three offices in the United States of America, Singapore and France, sales offices in 121 countries, and exports more than 95 per cent of its production of professional coffee machines for both Nuova Simonelli and Victoria Arduino brands.
Ottavi recognises that innovative machines is simply not enough to stay at the forefront of the industry. Companies such as the Simonelli Group must strive for more, and search for knowledge not yet discovered.
As such, in 2016, the Simonelli Group formed a partnership with University of Camerino to establish the International Hub for Coffee Research and Innovation. This is a place where science and technology are at the service of the coffee industry to achieve new quality goals. Ottavi says the intent was to put experts together to move the knowledge of coffee forward at a deeper level.
“We intend to continue working with universities and research centres to share and discuss with new research the coffee community and possible new applications for a 360-degree view from the bean to the cup,” Ottavi says. “The goal is simple: continuous improvement and making a strong contribution to the growth of the coffee community.”
To continue the expansion of the Simonelli Group, Ottavi says the company will invest in three key pillars: innovation, coffee culture and sustainability.
“We have been investing for years to offer the market coffee machines and grinders that can reduce waste and save energy. We are also investing heavily in designing machines that reduce carbon dioxide emissions during the manufacture, operation and end of life of the product,” Ottavi says. “We [also] intend to widen our presence on the market by strengthening the commercial area.”
With innovation and sustainability pillars in action, Simonelli Group’s development in coffee culture is about to rise. It has worked with global coffee chain giant Starbucks to help fit out its first Reserve Roastery in Italy in Milan, due to open in September 2018.
“Starbucks can be defined as a ‘Lovemark’, a brand that creates loyalty beyond reason. It does this by forging an emotional connection with consumers through the use of mystery, sensuality and intimacy,” Ottavi says. “It has created a real cult around itself, going beyond the boundaries of the product, representing a ‘premium’ status and lifestyle.”
For the Milan roastery, as well as those in Seattle and Shanghai, Starbucks has selected VA388 Black Eagle coffee machines and Mythos One grinders, products with high technology and ‘Made-in-Italy’ design. In addition, the Simonelli Group has offered Starbucks a structured technical and training service.
After 50 years at the helm of the company, Ottavi says his greatest accomplishment is growing and developing a team of professionals who strongly believe in projects and are committed to achieving goals.
“I believe a lot in the value of the team. Our secret is in our DNA, that is continuous investment in research, training and new technical solutions,” Ottavi says. “Just as baristas continue to search for new coffees and new recipes, Simonelli Group continues to invest in creating innovative, sustainable coffee machines that can guarantee a barista optimising the result in the cup.”
For the years to come, Ottavi hopes to see continued growth in the Italian coffee industry, the spread of the ‘Made in Italy’ products and coffee culture around the world. Ottavi’s career highlights are too many to note, but he says meeting Pope Benedict XVI and personally delivering him the Venus Century Victoria Arduino machine was an exciting moment. “The Pope is a great lover of espresso, so much so that the machine is still used to make coffee and cappuccino,” he says.
As for Ottavi’s own coffee making skills and consumption, they show no sign of slowing.
“After 50 years of working at this company, Simonelli Group is a second family for me. During the day I like to chat with the company staff and I am proud of the serene and collaborative atmosphere that we have established in a company that has seen strong growth in recent years,” he says.
As for the prospect of retirement, it’s not an option for Ottavi: “The President never retires.”