First up I hit Dallas, and found an astonishing street food scene. Not all fried green beans and ribs, here I tasted some of the best Korean fusion and tacos north of San Luis Potosì. If the term "kimchee fries" says nothing to you, look up ssahmBBQ.com. Austin showed some pretty nice food on wheels – can't forget the fried chicken, shrimp and avocado coated in an almond, sesame seeds, cornflakes and chili panure – as did Houston, with it's superlative Tex-Mex and sensational food-truck meetups advertised in the lifestyle section of the paper.
Then it was San Francisco, with its illuminated food culture and eating activism. The city's food trucks went beyond fusion and value meals, these put actual white tablecloth restaurant chefs on the expandable/collapsible kitchens for some serious high-end, gourmet mobile eats, like the former organic farming students that run a rotisserie truck that serves heritage pork, free-range chicken and local lamb. Awesome!
At the Monterey weekly farmer's market, the tandoori oven on wheels fed flocking crowds some of the best chicken and chapatti I've had in a long time. Next in line I checked Los Angeles, another epiphany: Reuben sandwich trucks, breakfast food trucks, bacon-with-everything trucks, fried chicken and waffles trucks, BBQ burger trucks, cold stone ice cream trucks, thai-mex trucks, lobster sandwich trucks, sustainable trucks running on vegetable oil, dumpling & samosa trucks... each selling all kinds of awesome grub.
Every single pop-up wheeled enterprise I tried, offered great food that was cooked well, and cost reasonably little. Each business I ate at had a Facebook page, a Twitter account, QR codes and catering gigs lined up 'til 2014. These people understand the importance of communication, image and hard work: they dish out an average of 300 lunches a day, and besides creating a new food trend, they keep their clientele informed and happy, raise good cash, and most importantly, are bringing people back to dining.
|photo © www.cousinsmainelobster.com|
Does the average Italian Joe that lunches out need to necessarily sit at a table, read his meal off a menu (albeit scribbled on a chalkboard) and perforce use silverware? Is the food truck concept too alien for Italians? Might the idea of a mobile cuisine be scary to the locals, who tend to associate it with the dubiously painted and hygienically–challenged panini-gelato-pizza carts that charge €5 for a bottle of lukewarm mineral water, and that Roman rodents are so fond of? Or can present day Italy, habitual to street food and regular historic invasions by foreign cultures, actually become the next food truck frontier? Mauro Uliassi, a cheerful Michelin-starred chef from Senigallia, is probably the first trying to make it happen, with his mobile food caravan.
|photo © dissapore|
I interviewed a friend and fellow expat foodie living in Rome who dispenses wine pleasures with her Vinoroma wine tasting venture, and that is strongly invested in the Rome food scene. When I asked her opinion on food trucks having a chance in Rome, the response was more than enthusiastic. It sounded like a business pitch. This got my metaphoric glands salivating.
So here I am calling out to you, my fellow expat friends living in Rome, with an idea. I'm looking for partners in a crazy venture. I want to start a Rome food truck movement, in a moment in which Italian food is in dire need of a revolution.
I am speaking to you. You who will sell a limb for a decent burrito. Yes, you right there stubbornly believing Rome will one day deliver a properly toasted bun for that 25% fatty burger you crave. You, with the Asian noodle fetish, and you there, in constant unfulfilled Rome ethnic food lust: if you haven't surrendered, come to me. Let's pool ideas, let's get serious, brainstorm, talk Kickstarter and buy that old Airstream van in the Cinecittà scrap heap. The required start-up capital should be minimal. Let's get this Rome food truck scene moving, and let us "stranieri" give Rome the dream. Starting with fulfilling our own, down in the streets.
|foto © allbarnone|