Thursday, December 31, 2009

More than just a food truck

In my last post reviewing top cultural moments of 2009 in Los Angeles, item #2 was the rise in food trucks servicing hungry Angelenos. Well, chalk another one to the list. "Vesuvio," a food truck offering traditional Southern Italian fare will be hitting the streets of LA in the New Year.

Founder Matt Giangrande contacted ExperienceLA and informed us of the latest food truck to enter the mobile restaurant business. Initially, my reaction was, "Not another one." But after a brief conversation with Matt, I found that the story and inspiration behind "Vesuvio" was much more interesting than some guy simply capitalizing on an opportunity to make a few bucks.

Matt hopes that people will find this food experience a little different from most other food trucks. While many of the food trucks offer fusion menus, "Vesuvio" looks to bring authentic, Southern Italian food to the game; food which Giangrande grew up eating, and which his grandmother made.

"Many people think of Italian food, and they think of spaghetti and meatballs," he offers. Of course, we know it's more than that, but I think the idea here is that food is more than what you put into your mouth. It's an experience, and a reflection of a culture.

According to Giangrande, Northern Italian cuisine has more French and German influence, with more butter and cream based dishes. In Southern Italian cooking, you'll find more tomato-based recipes and heavier use of cheese, due partially to a greater Spanish and Arabic influence.

One of the menu items I'm looking forward to tasting is the Arancini (pronounced Ah-rahn-CHEE-nee), a deep fried ball of smoked mozzarella, parmesan cheese, rice, Italian salami, herbs & spices...umm, I heard deep fried cheese. Sold.

Aside from sharing foods which he grew up with, the founder of "Vesuvio" aims to provide a reflection of the Neapolitan way of life. Food was an opportunity for Giangrande's grandmother to welcome family and friends into her home. With "Vesuvio," he hopes to create a commonplace for neighbors and strangers to gather.

"Whenever I go to Italy to visit family, I am amazed by the amount of interaction in the streets. Complete strangers will chat each other up, scream at each other, root for their soccer teams...and this is the norm, not the exception."

Is it possible that one day, the streets of Los Angeles will look like those of Italy, with people milling about and chatting with strangers? Not likely, but folks are certainly gathering in the streets waiting to taste the delights of these food trucks. Hopefully, "Vesuvio" can deliver on more than just the food, and people gather just to gather and be neighborly. Perhaps I'll see some of you out there.

(photo courtesy of Vesuvio)


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