Versions of this "club" style espresso machine have been produced since at least the early 70s. And maybe the early 60s. The extended Zacconi/Di Carli clan around Milano seems to be the unifying factor. The earliest example we've seen is the early 70s SAMA Lusso/Club, which was also obviously the basis of the equally rare Bezzera "Family" model, followed by the equally rare La Romana, and finally, years later, was resurrected and finally mass produced by Ponte Vecchio as the Lusso.
The term "club" has historically been associated with small footprint one group machines that include features normally found on larger commercial machines. Like a hot water spigot in addition to the steam wand, and the pipes onboard to optionally have the boiler and/or drain either "plumbed in," or refilled by hand. All making these presumably suitable for a small "club" or cafe.
The La Romana has a massive brass boiler, a spring driven piston group built by Zacconi (relatives may have been making the La Romana and using family connections to source the group) fed by a dipper tube into the boiler. The large boiler means not only that you can pull several shots without re-filling, unlike a Pavoni or Olympia, it provides thermal stability not often found in home dipper machines.
"Home" spring piston lever machines are usually characterized by lighter, more "delicate" shots, because the brew pressure is set by the spring rate (pushing on the arm won't do you any good!) There is less "crema" on top of the shot because there's less bubbles in the shot. But the extraction is "better" and the shots tend to be "sweeter" because there is less liklihood of "overextraction," and pulling the last bitter flavors out of a spent puck. Some people get too obsessed with crema production when they should be concentrating more on the actual "taste" of their espresso.
A spring driven piston (as virtually all commercial lever machines are) means that after you load and lock your portafilter, you PULL the handle down (instead of lifting UP like a Cremina or Pavoni) and wait until you see a drop or two of espresso ("pre-infusion" with pressurized hot water from the boiler) and then release it, so that the spring can begin it's work of pushing the water through the coffee puck. (Hence the term, "pulling a shot.") A lot of the most "state of the art" modern electronic machines (La Marzocco) essentially try to mimic this natural spring piston action (pre-infusion, followed by a high pressure start to the flow of water and a gradual decline in pressure to the end of the shot as the coffee dose is used up (extracted) with a circuit board and electric relays to control water flow. They don't do this because spring levers are so charming (although we know they are) but because they accidentally were an almost perfect way to extract espresso! You have to pull the handle down to compress the spring. It just happens to allow the pressurized hot boiler water to soak the puck (pre-infusion) AND starts the shot with the spring at it's highest compression, while gradually lowering the pressure as the spring extends back to "rest" again as the coffee dose is spent.) That process is why there's really no better way to "pull a shot" than a full sized commercial spring lever machine! All others are mere imposters!
Not many La Romanas were made, and you probably won't find another in your lifetime. We've completely rebuilt this one, with new piston seals, and rebuilt the steam/hot water valves. The body (originally red, of course) was in sad condition and had been rattle canned at some point, so be stripped and powder coated it with our custom VoltAge110 blue hammertone. The portafilter is a La Pavoni replacement for the original, and comes with a double basket. We'll also through in a blue handled tamper, and ugly plastic funnel.