I realized that I might have been a little harsh on the Dr. Grabow during the last review, so I spent $48 on a Rossi Piccolo to compare it to. It’s the cheapest pipe from a major manufacturer I could find, excluding Brigham, whose rock maple inserts I find contrary to my personal set of beliefs.
If you’re interested, Brigham has a lineage of quality pipes that, in their President Helm line approaches the $200 range. They incorporate plateau-crowned bent Dublin shapes that are close to Nording freehands and look really nice. Their cheapies aren’t my thing, though- I simply don’t like filtered pipes.
At any rate, the Rossi brand of pipes started in 1886, when Ferdinando Rossi began making pipes in Varese, Italy. Rossi was a trendsetter and tastemaker in the industry, prone to designing factory elements that were ahead of their time like unique canals that drove water to propel the factory’s early hydroelectric generators.
Rossi also oversaw other innovations and soon, the company grew to become one of the largest manufacturers of pipes in the world. In 1918, Ferdinando’s son Leonida became active in the company’s operation. Fifty years in, an astounding 860 people worked for Rossi, which was cranking out more than 50,000 pipes per day.
We hear about all the crap Google has at their offices to make their twenty-hour days livable like nap pods. Rossi was right at the cutting edge of the concept: the factory had a hospital ward, dining rooms, shops, and even a kindergarten! But did they have vegan poké bowls or chicken tandoori? Nope. +1 for Google.
Ferdinarndo Rossi II, Leonida’s son, helmed the operation starting around 1946. The problem was that Rossi didn’t anticipate the cigarette boom after the war, and the firm struggled for the next forty years. In 1985, the company shut down and its brand was purchased by Savinelli, perhaps due to the unique, competitive friendship between Achille Savinelli and Ferdinando Rossi. Today, the Rossi marquee is used by Savinelli to denote its lower-level pipes. Rossi is the Squier to Savinelli’s Fender, the Epiphone to Savinelli’s Gibson, or the Geo Metro to Savinelli’s Chevy Metro.
Because of this, the brand is chock-full of beater pipes you can test your tit on before splurging on a Savinelli. It’s perfect for the pipe-smoking breadwinner! In fact, I’ve read that Rossi’s Piccolo line is made up of stummels lined up for Savinelli’s petite series that didn’t make the grade after a sandblast. You can save $50 or $60 by buying a Piccolo, and you probably won’t notice much of a difference if you’re like me.
Savinelli and Rossi make tons of big-ass pipes with huge bowls. Rossi’s Piccolo line -and Savinelli’s Petite offerings- are only available in demure shapes: their 8105 is a copy of Savinelli’s 105 svelte billiard pipe. My example rang in at $47.50, about $2.30 less than standard thanks to my SmokingPipes VIP membership since I’ve bought so much shit from them recently. The pipe is rusticated heavily to cover up the flaws that Savinelli declined, but it’s got more of a shape to it than a similarly-rusticated Peterson. If I were to choose between a Petey and a Sav, I’d choose the Rossi version of the Savinelli all day.
Everyone keeps saying presentation and first impressions are important, but I still keep walking around in artificial-turf-lined flip-flops, neon green scrub pants, and a cardigan with no undershirt. I guess I’m starting to get what the HR department says, though, since whereas the Dr. Grabow came in a blister pack better home to a pack of trading cards, the Piccolo arrived inside a vibrant cardstock box. Inside was a no-name, bright red sock that contained the pipe. It’s extremely small, long, and lithe, much different from the Grabow.
Speaking to those measurements, the pipe is 5.67 inches long from stem to stummel. It weighs nine-tenths of an ounce. The bowl’s 1.64 inches tall, with a chamber depth of 1.41 inches and an interior diameter of .68 inches. The outside diameter is 1.26 inches, so it’s got about a third of an inch of wall around it.
The volume of the Piccolo’s bowl is .7951 inches. Other pipes I’ve reviewed, none of which are massive, such as the Erik The Red billiard, the Ropp Zulu, the Compass, and the Savinelli Oscar Tiger (review coming next week), measure .67, .84, .49, and .87 inches, respectively. It stood to reason that a typical smoke would last somewhere between the Erik the Red the Oscar Tiger.
Seeing the measurements is actually kind of a nice surprise to me: this pipe doesn’t feel like it should have that large of a bowl! But the more volume, the merrier, I say. Upstream, a visual inspection of the mortise revealed that it was drilled pretty much true to center. I still don’t have a battery for my calipers, but it looks good.
The Rossi Piccolo pipes have vulcanite stems. This one felt pliable in my mouth -like any errant move would imprint it with teeth-marks, my big no-no- but it held up and didn’t contract. It was night-and-day difference in comparison to the Dr. Grabow’s kiddie-toy plastic bit.
Keeping in line with the review of that pipe, I meant to pack the Rossi with Half & Half to smoke. Unfortunately, my pouch of Half & Half was out in my car, so I loaded the Rossi with some Sir Walter Raleigh, a codger blend of Burley with anise and molasses toppings. I charred the tobacco, tamped it, lit it again and tamped it, and was off to the races.
The pipe smoked hot, probably due to its tiny bowl and thin walls- and I may have smoked it a touch too fast. Never, though, was it unpleasant to hold. I did get a bit of gurgle towards the end, but I blame that on myself. I was chugging it.
I’ve smoked the Piccolo a couple more times since my initial experience. Thinking that perhaps the toppings of the Walter Raleigh contributed to the smoke, the second time I loaded it with Carter Hall, another old school blend of ribbon-cut Burley and Virginia tobacco that’s perfect for a big galoot like me. The third smoke was, finally, of Half & Half. Both subsequent smokes were still a bit warm.
I sort of like a warm pipe, though. This sounds stupid, but it allows a static piece of functional art to come alive. I’m not sure how much of an art piece a spartan $50 Rossi is, but it’s for sure more than a cigarette. If I were in the market for another sub-$50 pipe, I’d absolutely start my search with Rossi. Their Vittoria line of pipes -rusticated and no-nonsense takes on some of Savinelli’s larger shapes- actually starts a couple bucks cheaper than the Piccolo series, and something like an 8409 Dublin or an 8122 bent pot might be just the thing for me.
But for a convert from the hurried, hit-it-and-quit-it world of cigarettes and vapes, the small bowl of the Piccolo might be the perfect thing in briar pipes.