The cheap Rossi Piccolo pipe is no woodwind

I realized that I might have been a little harsh on the Dr. Grabow after I first smoked it, so I spent $48 on a Rossi Piccolo to compare it to. It’s the cheapest brand-new pipe from a major manufacturer I could find, excluding Brigham, a Canadian brand known for its rock-maple inserts that are said to help reduce tongue-bite.

The Rossi 8105 is a continuation of the storied marque’s history.

The Rossi brand of pipes started in 1886, when Ferdinando Rossi began making pipes in Varese, Italy. Rossi was a trendsetter and tastemaker; a man with an eye towards innovation who personally designed things like unique canals that drove water to propel his factory’s early hydroelectric generators. 

The company soon grew to become one of the largest manufacturers of pipes in the world. In 1918, Ferdinando’s son Leonida became active in the business. In 1936, an astounding 860 people worked for Rossi in an expanded factory that cranked 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 for millennials 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 to go? Nope. +1 for Google.

Ferdinarndo Rossi II, Leonida’s son, helmed the operation starting around 1946. The problem was that the company didn’t anticipate the cigarette boom after World War II, and the firm struggled over the next several decades. In 1985, the company shut down and its assets were purchased by Savinelli, perhaps thanks to the unique, competitive friendship that Achille Savinelli and Ferdinando Rossi shared. Today, the Savinelli uses the Rossi marquee to denote its lower-level, machine-made pipes. Rossi is the Squier to Savinelli’s Fender; the Epiphone to Savinelli’s Gibson; or the Geo Metro to Savinelli’s, well, Chevy Metro. 

The pipe came from SmokingPipes in a neat, vibrant box.

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 a smoker on a budget! 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 huge pipes with gigantic 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 many pipes and tobaccos 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 forced to choose between a Petey and a Sav, I’d choose the Rossi version of the Savinelli all day. 

Savinelli pipes are packaged similarly, though they include a filter adapter, a nicer box, and a branded sock.

Everyone keeps saying presentation and first impressions are important, but I still keep walking around in flip-flops lined with artificial turf, 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 Pokémon 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. 

The pipe’s 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 of mine such as my Erik The Red billiard, my Ropp Zulu, my Compass, and my Savinelli Oscar Tiger, 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, neither of which I’ve talked about here yet. I will!

Rossi’s branding is spartan. Who cares?

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. The battery to my calipers died, but it passes the eye test. A concurrent smell test revealed what I expected, that the pipe had not been smoked.

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. Thankfully, it held up and didn’t contract. It was night-and-day difference in comparison to the Dr. Grabow’s kiddie-toy plastic bit, or even a Boswell acrylic, which I prefer aesthetically to old-school vulcanite. Between this and last week’s Scott’s Burner, I’m coming back around to vulcanite.

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 you can find at any tobacco barn that’s composed of Burley with anise and molasses toppings. I charred the tobacco, tamped it, lit it again and tamped it again: I was off to the races. 

The stem and stummel slowly taper towards the bowl of the Piccolo.

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, since the temperature allows a static piece of functional art to almost turn into a living being. I’m not sure how much of an art piece a spartan $50 Rossi is, but it’s for sure more artsy 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.

3 thoughts on “The cheap Rossi Piccolo pipe is no woodwind

    1. I thought so! I’ve noticed Rossi selling a new ‘Artisan’ series that’s purported to be handmade. I wonder if they’re Savinelli Autograph seconds. They’re all rusticated.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. It’d be a solid place for a new pipe-smoker to start. Rossi has started to sell a version of Savinelli’s freehands for quite a premium over their normally-inexpensive pieces. I’ll have to get one and try it out.

      Liked by 1 person

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