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
Appointments: Steel
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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

  • ANTON CHIA

    I have the same cap and my cap screws smoothly. Maybe yours is an isolated QC slip. The reverse writing of mine is smooth as well. My only beef is the nib is hard as nails and without much line variation to speak of. In other words; boring. Pen itself is gorgeous and its those attention grabbing ‘now thats a pen’ pen.

  • Roberto Sans

    Thank you for another wonderful review. I have two of these Dolce Vita pens, the regular mid-size and the Stantuffo Oro. Both of them are wonderful writers and I am very satisfied with them. However, I would support the theory that Martemodena sells seconds as all pens that I have bought for them (far too many) have some sort of minor issue. My stantuffo had the ink window transparent instead of orange because they had run out of orange plastic, and there was a note inside the pen box saying so. Other pens that I have bought form martemodena have had issues, largely regarding imperfections in the packaging. However, all pens that I have bought from them have worked beautifully and I am very happy with them, particularly because I would not have been able to afford them otherwise.

  • kevin-landon@comcast.net

    I have purchased several Delta pens from Marte Modena and they are all top rate. They write wonderfully and I could not have collected them without the discount so quickly!

  • Matt Taylor

    The threads on my Unica were quite bad as well, to the point that they had to be screwed on in a very specific orientation or else they would just catch and not close properly. Recently they don’t seem to have that problem anymore, though (knock on wood!)

  • Jerred Kostashuk

    I have a Dolcevita Oro Midsize and cap/body threads are very smooth. It is an absurdly thick pen and somewhat “loud” pen, though, two things that generally limit it to home use for me.

  • Ira Stone

    Thanks for a great review Matt. After watching I went on the web to MarteModena and purchased the Fusion version for under $180! I have and like another Fusion 82, so couldn’t justify upgrading to gold given the present difference in price. Absolutely no evidence that the pen is a secondhand no issue with the cap or anything else. I am very pleased and had wanted a Dolcevita for a long time. Thanks.
    Ira

  • mulrich1

    I bought a Pelikan from MM and didn’t have any problems. In fact, they included 2-day DHL shipping which I didn’t anticipate and was shocked when my pen arrived so quickly. I also didn’t realize that I ordered a deluxe gift box that game with a bottle of ink, Edelstein Onyx, another nice surprise. I’m a little hesitant publicly promoting them since I’d like to take advantage of a few more deals before they get too popular.
    The pen worked great and I didn’t notice any problems with it.

    I was actually looking at a Delta through MM (cheap enough to justify) but if they’re selling a lower quality product I’ll probably pass. Too many other pens I more interested in.

  • Truth Arrives

    In your YouTube review, you have inserted this “correction: “The Dolcevita Federico differs from the regular Dolcevita due to less expensive trim (laser-etched steel vs. hand-engraved silver/gold-plated silver.) The name Stantuffo indicates that this is a piston filler vs. a cartridge/converter filler. Apologies for the incorrect information.”

    These and the comments above are somewhat “confusing”.

    – The comment on steel is evidently not the case. Take a look at this Federico, with its gold trim:http://www.martemodena.com/shop/delta-pens/454-delta-fountain-pen-dolcevita-media-federico-gt.html?search_query=federico&results=97

    – The pen at the link above is not called a Stantuffo, but it has a piston. So it cannot be that the “Stantuffo” indicates a piston.

    – “The Federico version of the Dolcevita … ” is hard to make sense of. If you look at the MarteModena website, you will note that there is a Dolcevita Stantuffo Federico, a Dolcevita Media Federico, and so on. Your comments above (including those on price) somehow mix things from several different pens, hus rendering unclear what exactly is being compared with what.

    – I have read of these comments about laser engraving vs. hand engraving. As I have quite a few Delta pens, including some Dolcevitas. may I ask this: how does one tell the difference between the two types of engravings.

    • Hey Truth.Arrives,

      I’m not 100% clear on all of this (Delta’s nomenclature is confusing and Marte Modena’s side is somewhat confusing as well.)

      – Even though the clip on the above pen is gold in color, it is probably gold-plated steel vs. gold-plated silver. The silver trim is just steel trim rather than actualy sterling silver, which is the metal used on the full-price version.

      – Re: The piston filler: this pen isn’t a piston filler, it has a captured converter, which is slightly different. Instead of the barrel holding the ink directly, there is a converter inside the pen that holds the ink. The knob on the back can control turn the converter, but there is a converter inside. From further down the page: (the pen has a ink converter usable like piston filler. Thanks to the rear cap screwable is not necessary to remove the converter to charge the pen)

      -Laser Engraving vs. Hand Engraving: Laser Engraving is very shallow and looks more like etching than actual engraving. Hand engraving will be smoother, and far more three-dimensional, instead of looking lightly scratched into the surface. On laser engraving, you can also see very densely-packed “pixels”.

      • Truth Arrives

        “Even though the clip on the above pen is gold in color, it is probably gold-plated steel vs. gold-plated silver.”

        – The latter would be vermeil. Where Delta has vermeil, it has always indicated it. Why you think that the Dolcevita you are comparing against has vermeil trim? (The one you refer to as the “Standard Dolcevita”.)

        “Re: The piston filler: this pen isn’t a piston filler, it has a captured converter, which is slightly different.”

        – I am aware of that. But note that in your article, you state that “The Federico Stantuffo is a piston-filled version of the standard Dolcevita”. You then show a picture of the mechanism and follow with a paragraph in which you repeatedly refer to it as a “piston”. It is on that basis that I used the word “piston”.

        But what we choose to call it doesn’t actually matter, as the essence of the point was a comparison with a “cartridge/convertor” mechanism (which one generally takes to means unscrewing the barrel etc.)

        “Laser Engraving vs. Hand Engraving: Laser Engraving is very shallow and looks more like etching than actual engraving …”

        – OK. But have we actually determined that such statements are actually true of the pens under discussion? I have yet to see any actual evidence to support some of the claims I have read.

        • >- The latter would be vermeil. Where Delta has vermeil, it has always indicated it. Why you think that the Dolcevita you are comparing against has vermeil trim? (The one you refer to as the “Standard Dolcevita”.)

          I am aware of this. This is the pen which I reviewed: http://www.martemodena.com/shop/delta-pens/497-delta-fountain-pen-dolcevita-stantuffo-federico.html. You’ll note that, under trim, this pen mentions “Rhodium” not “Silver.” Whereas, if you look at this link of a “regular” Dolcevita Medium, you’ll note the trim is listed as 925 Sterling Silver (http://www.fahrneyspens.com/Item–i-8187S). This would further indicate (assuming that the MarteModena website is accurate) that the Federico version cuts back on the trims.

          >But what we choose to call it doesn’t actually matter, as the essence of the point was a comparison with a “cartridge/convertor” mechanism (which one generally takes to means unscrewing the barrel etc.)

          I do not agree with you on this; what we call it does matter. While they have similar user interactions, a captured converter and a piston are different mechanisms, have different properties and maintenance concerns, and should be treated as different filling systems. Yes, I was comparing the piston filler of the Stantuffo to the cartridge/converter of the “regular” Dolcevita line, but it does not automatically follow that anything that isn’t a cartridge/converter is a piston filler. (When I purchased this pen, a version with a captured converter wasn’t even available on the MM website.) I will give you that the knob on the back of the pen is the same between the two models. But the Stantuffo is a piston filler with an ink window through which you can see the piston stopper. The Federico gt that you linked to is a captured converter with no ink window. The assessment that the word “stantuffo” indicates a piston filler is technically accurate. (Which is the point you were originally trying to argue.)

          >- OK. But have we actually determined that such statements are actually true of the pens under discussion? I have yet to see any actual evidence to support some of the claims I have read.

          I own both a regular Dolcevita line (with sterling silver trim, a cartridge/converter filling mechanism, and hand engraving) and the engraving methods between it and the Federico Stantuffo are drastically different. The hand-engraved model has the design in deep bas relief, requiring had removal of material. The Federico version has the design laser-etched on the surface. What that review comes out toward the end of the season, you will be able to compare the engraving styles if you so desire.

          In the end, I agree with you. It is confusing. And there is some measure of arguing over semantics involved. Part of that has to do with the lower-priced versions of very similar pens available only from MarteModena, and lack of any really solid documentation.

          • Truth Arrives

            “I do not agree with you on this; what we call it does matter. … but it does not automatically follow that anything that isn’t a cartridge/converter is a piston filler.”

            – Actually, I did not state or imply that. What I mean is that if all one wants to say that a filling mechanism isn’t a cartridge convertor then it actually does not matter what that filling mechanism is. (In particular, see my remark on “the *essence* of the comparison”.) That is very different from stating that it is not a cartridge/convertor must be a piston.

            You’ll note that, under trim, this pen mentions “Rhodium” not “Silver.” Whereas, if you look at this link of a “regular” Dolcevita Medium, you’ll note the trim is listed as 925 Sterling Silver”

            – Yes. I noted that. Yet in your reviews, here and elsewhere, you claim that the trim is steel. How come?

            “The hand-engraved model has the design in deep bas relief, requiring had removal of material.”
            – Sorry I don’t follow the logic. You seem to imply that “bas relief” or the “removal of material” cannot be done by laser and must be done by hand. That is simply not the case. So I will insist that no case has been proven for the claims of “hand engraving”. But I am curious about the matter; so I will simply ask some people at Delta.

  • Mikey Mazur

    Thanks for the info on this Matt. I looked up the company on ebay and wow!!! I seen these with red ends and cap with gold or sliver accents and I think the gold looks great in red. DAMN NOW ANOTHER PEN ADDED TO A LIST TO BUY

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  • Neil Pollock

    I bought this pen last week. Filled it up, and it worked beautifully. but now three days later, it has hard starts and skips. I think it worked when I filled it because the feed was saturated, but now I think it is ink starved a little… Anyone else experience this?