And what design-forward kitchen appliance would be complete without an interesting functional twist? In the case of the Alessi SG68 it's a unique bun-warming rack you place above the toaster's bread slot. Resting about an inch over the slots, the idea here is to warm more fragile treats such as croissants, cinnamon buns, scones and the like.
Once you get the hang of the SG68's odd controls, operating the unconventional machine isn't too tricky. The device essentially functions as typical toasters have for decades, albeit one that's a lot wider and squashed flat (it's only 7.5 inches tall). One caveat is that while Alessi says the device can handle slices of bread 3 cm (1.2 inches) thick, I found that claim dubious. In fact anything beyond 1 inch in the slot tended to jam inside the grilling cage.
In its defense, the Alessi SG68 is a snap to clean. Just slide out the flat crumb tray that rests near the toaster's underside beneath the machine's long bread slot. And unlike the KitchenAid 4-Slice Manual, the SG68's innards don't get overly littered with crumbs.
Set at medium power, on average the Alessi toaster produced evenly browned bread slices in a remarkably quick 2 minutes, 12 seconds. With the toasting level cranked up to maximum, the SG68 further demonstrated its sporty grilling abilities. It typically served up hot, well-crisped toast in just 2 minutes, 46 seconds. Bagels didn't faze this toaster either, browning in a tidy 2 minutes, 49 seconds.
These numbers make the Alessi SG68 the fastest toaster in our roundup. The next fastest was the Cuisinart CPT-440, which on medium power was only slightly slower (2 minutes, 40 seconds).
One quibble some may have with the Alessi SG68, though, is that it toasts its bread on the light side compared with other products we've put through their paces. Personally I prefer my toast on the beige-to-golden-brown part of the spectrum, so I can't complain. Still, if you crave a seriously charred plank, then this machine isn't for you -- unless you plan to pull the toaster lever a few extra times, all the time.
The $230 Alessi SG68 toaster is quite like other notable examples of luxurious Italian craftsmanship, with crisp Armani suits and swift Ferrari motorcars probably leaping first to mind. And as with these classic indulgences, the SG68 is built toward achieving extreme physical beauty but sports a steep price to match.
I'll concede it's one seriously fast toaster, not to mention an interesting machine to look at. That said, the bread the Alessi SG68 grills is a bit too light and often lodges within its innards if cut just a tad thick. Unless you're a slave to unconventional appliance design or toaster fashion, no amount of aesthetic ingenuity can offset the SG68's high price and quirky handling. For a much better toasting experience I suggest the $100instead. It's almost as fast, but is a fraction of the Alessi's price, not to mention much easier to use.