Pen Review: Delta Dolcevita Federico Stantuffo
Edited to correct some information about how this models differs from other Dolcevita models.
Material: Celluloid and Acrylic
Nib: 14k Gold
Filling System: Piston
Length (Capped): 141.4mm
Length (Uncapped): 129.3mm
Length (Posted): 173mm
Section Diameter: 13.6mm
Barrel Max Diameter: 14.6mm
Cap Max Diameter: 17.8mm
Weight, Uncapped (with ink and/or converter): 26g
Weight, Capped (with ink and/or converter): 37g
When most people think of Delta fountain pens, they often think of the brand’s trademark orange and black Dolcevita line. (Or, as I like to call them, the really expensive Halloween pens.) I have been a fan of Delta’s lower-end offerings for a while, including the limited edition Unica in Delta orange celluloid that I reviewed a while back, and the wonderful writing, yet stupidly marketed, Fusion 82. All of Delta’s lower-end pens that I’ve used up to this point (including some I have yet to review) have been solidly-built, attractive, and great writers.
But the Dolcevita line has never really appealed to me that much. For the first thing, I’m not crazy about the combination of orange and black. (Being a redhead, orange has never really been my favorite color anyway.) For another, in the U.S., Dolcevita pens are really expensive. I had always wanted to try them, but not at the prices for which I saw them selling online.
Several months ago, I was introduced to the online Italian retailer, Marte Modena. At the time, I thought I had stumbled upon Delta nirvana. Marte Modena’s prices were significantly lower than those of other retailers. So, I dove in and purchased several pens, including this Dolcevita Federico Stantuffo with a 14k Gold nib.
Over the last several months, however, there has been a lot of scuttlebutt in the FP community around Delta’s relationship with MarteModena. It appears, from several posts and forum discussions, that Delta is offering MarteModena exclusive models, or even more confusingly, a drastically steeper discount than they offer the same pens to other retailers. While there is nothing illegal about this, per say, it is a bit perplexing, especially as MarteModena is not allowed to sell these pens inside Italy as I understand it. Several comments also seem to indicate that these drastically discounted pens may be factory seconds. The business justification for these decisions is somewhat opaque, and has turned people off of both Delta and MarteModena. I bring this up at this point in the review because I will to refer back to it a few times further on when I’m discussing various aspects of the pen.
The Federico Stantuffo is a piston-filled version of the standard Dolcevita. (I believe it is about the same size as the standard Dolcevita medium.) Despite being a “medium” size, it’s still a very large pen. The regular Dolcevita features gold vermeil (gold wash over silver) or silver, and features a hand-engraved center band. The Federico version of the Dolcevita features what I believe to be steel trim, which is laser-engraved which helps to explain the lower cost of the pen compared to the Federico counterparts listed in other retailers. (At the time of this writing, the Stantuffo listed for $366.66 with a 14k nib, and less than $300 with a fusion nib. I would recommend spending the extra money on the 14k nib.) The Stantuffo name helps to indicate that this pen is a piston filler vs. the regular cartridge/converter filled system of the regular Dolcevita.
The Federico Stantuffo follows the standard Dolcevita profile pretty closely. The black plastic cap has a small medallion in the top which features the Delta Logo. The clip is held on with a silver ring that divides the finial from the rest of the cap. The clip tapers down to a roller wheel. The clip is ridiculously flimsy for a pen of this size. A little bit of force on the clip, and you could very easily bend it all out of shape. The rest of the cap flares out toward the lip, and has two silver-colored metal cap bands: a thin washer, and a thicker, 3-dimensional ring with a laser-etched scrollwork design. The words “Delta Italy” and “DOLCEVITA FEDERICO” are seen printed on the back of the cap along with a serial number for the pen: 0448 in the case of my pen.
The threads on my Stantuffo are something of a letdown. It feels as though the threads got crossed on this pen at some point, and they don’t fit together very smoothly. I get the feeling that I need to tighten down the cap further, but I’m afraid that doing so would crack something. If there is any credence to the assertions that MarteModena is, in fact, selling factory seconds, the threads on my cap seem to be an example of that. I haven’t had any issues with the cap coming undone, but it just doesn’t feel up to the usual standard that I’ve experienced on other Delta pens.
The barrel has an orange, transparent ink window which pokes out from the edge of the cap before transitioning to Delta orange celluloid. I love having an ink window in the barrel, and it has been quite handy on my pen. However, when I purchased this pen for myself, I also purchased one for my business partner as a gift. His barrel snapped off right at the join of the ink window and the celluloid, rendering the pen useless. Since this is a model that is only available through one retailer, getting repairs done on it will likely require sending the pen back to Italy rather than reaching out the to retailer or the local distributor (Yafa, here in the US.)
The piston filler for this pen is a bit unusual. Most pens’ piston filler knobs are controlled by the finial at the end of the barrel. The piston knob on the Federico Stantuffo can only be accessed by removing the black acrylic blind cap. Doing so exposes a small, knurled metal knob which operates the piston. The piston itself operates quite smoothly, and the knob has a neat clutch feature that allows the knob to continue turning (making a small clicking sound rather like a socket wrench) even when the piston is all way retracted.
The pens’ section tapers only slightly toward a rounded flange near the nib. The section is about the same diameter as the Montblanc 149, which I find just a hair too thick, but not so much as to be unusable.
The breakage of my business partner’s pen aside, any of my earlier complaints about the pen (the flimsy clip, the slightly too wide section, the crossed threads) pale in comparison to the glorious nib Delta included on the pen. The large 14k, rhodium-plated nib is one of the best-performing nibs in my collection. It is exceptionally smooth without any trace of baby’s bottom. Of all the nibs I have used, none has come closer to butter-on-hot-glass perfection out of the box than this one. The feed seems to do an admirable job keeping up with long writing sessions. It does, however, tend to be somewhat sensitive to thicker inks. (The pen didn’t seem to like Noodler’s Black Swan in Australian Roses, for instance, but did a great job with Pelikan and Pilot inks.) Even then, I never experienced any ink starvation. Instead, the ink flow would go from moderately wet to just moderate.
The nib’s medium point is slightly on the fine side of medium for a European nib. It is quite a rigid nib, unfortunately. A bit of bounce on such a large nib would have been greatly appreciated.
In the end, I found the Federico Stantuffo to be well worth what I paid for it. It’s a great pen that writes very well. Aside from a slightly wide grip, it fits nicely in the hand without posting. The minor nitpicks do detract a bit from my enjoyment, but not enough for me to stop using it. I’ve had it inked almost non-stop since I got the pen several months ago. When I want a smooth, consistent writer, this is one of the first pens I turn to.
I have struggled a bit to determine if I would buy the same pen from the same retailer again, knowing what I know now. On one hand, the Stantuffo from MarteModena got me into the Dolcevita line at a price I found reasonable. On the other hand, the lack of local repair for my partner’s snapped barrel and the possible “factory second” aspects of my pen make me a bit leery. If this pen were available from other retailers at a similar price, I would have no concerns about recommending it highly. It is a wonderful pen. Otherwise, caveat emptor.