The apparently organic marketing campaign worked better than a corporate idea in 2015, which had resulted in a backlash for encouraging customers to “love thy neighbor as you would love thyself. As long as he or she is hot and of the opposite sex.” This time, pandoro lovers around the country responded with patriotic zeal, making a run on the traditional blue cardboard gift boxes and staving off layoffs. Labor activists, politicians and others jumped on the bandwagon.
Cécile Kyenge, a former government minister, wrote in support of the workers on Twitter, calling the situation a “Christmas fable with a happy ending.”
Luca Quagini, a management consultant that the hedge fund has brought in to run the company in its crisis period, struck a more cautionary tone. “So this Christmas miracle is a miracle, but it’s peanuts,” he said.
Sitting near what he called the “situation room,” littered with binders and suited consultants and a devoured pandoro, Mr. Quagini explained that Monday’s final batch of 5,000 cakes was intended to make sure Veronese customers were not left out in the national buying spree. As for November’s 1.5 million cakes, he said they had helped Melagatti maintain presence on the Italian market, which was crucial because of the spike in demand.
But supermarkets, he said, were playing the role of Scrooge.
They had already counted Melegatti out when they made their Christmas plans, and to move inventory as the holiday approached, cut the cost of competitors’ cakes, which in the past have sometimes been sold for less than a loaf of bread. Because of the strict parameters of their court-approved restructuring plan to repay about 30 million euros in debt to workers and suppliers, Melagatti had less pricing flexibility.
And Easter looms. Production of the dove-shaped cakes known as colombas will need to start in days if they are going to hit the sweet spot of the Easter market.
“Let’s hope there will be Easter,” Ms. Galeotto said. “From what we hear, there will be.”
On Oct. 14, 1894, Domenico Melegatti patented his recipe and pandoro, as it is now universally known in Italy, was born. Depending on whom you ask, pandoro goes back to ancient Rome or the Middle Ages or the doge of Venice’s Palace. Melegatti built an empire off the cake, and it conquered Italy, though it never quite went global.
Efforts to crack the American market, said Matteo Peraro, 36, a union representative and, since 2004, one of Melegatti’s master bakers, hit a snag when the cake’s powdered sugar set off alarm bells during the anthrax scare.
Earlier this week, as the last batch of pandoro dough rose in a heated room, Francesca Massalongo, a local Verona tour guide, pointed out to a group of American tourists the stately Melegatti palace, which once housed the historic bakery but now plays host to a shoe store.