The humble food truck has evolved from a greasy spoon on wheels into a purveyor of sushi, dumplings and over-the-top desserts. The truck's limits were pushed a step further by Jon Darsky — pro baseball scout turned pizza chef — with Del Popolo, a mobile, wood-burning brick pizza oven serving pies on the streets of San Francisco.
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The idea of authentic pizzeria on wheels originally came to Jon back in early 2010, after he experienced the variety of street food available in Austin, Texas. "After working at three pizza-centric Bay Area restaurants, I initially thought about opening a traditional restaurant focused on pizza; a place where pizza would be made and served throughout the day, for lunch and dinner," Darsky said. But he had a difficult time finding the ideal location, and with a newfound respect for mobile eateries, he focused his efforts on designing the perfect pizza truck.
Planning for Del Popolo started in June of 2010. The original idea to use a step-van — like most food trucks — was scrapped when Darsky realised the weight of a brick pizza oven required a more industrial machine. So he chose a Caterpillar truck with a 350-HP C7 diesel engine. Everything not powered by firewood is on a 10KW Cummins Onan generator, fuelled by the truck's tanks. "Limiting the menu to pizza minimises the need for equipment," Darsky said. "We have an oven, two sinks, water tanks, a refrigerator and an iPad."
For the kitchen, Darsky mounted a metal shipping container to the truck. The box is spacious at 6m long, but the 1.8m x 1.5m oven takes up a good chunk. The construction took about four months, including removing the container's side doors and plywood flooring, adding stairs for access, and creating a new set of glass doors to provide a great view of the kitchen.
The unique design certainly stands out in a growing field of mobile food options. But the vehicle itself is just a means for Darsky to make high-quality pizza the way he wants to, away from a permanent kitchen.
"In this operation, I'm focusing on one thing. One could describe it as restaurant quality, but, in fact, it should be better. The sole focus should lead to special results."
Name: Jon Darsky Location: Wherever in San Francisco @pizzadelpopolo says it is. Money invested: About $US180,000. Prized possession: Darsky's 15,000kg baby. It's hard not to be proud of a beautiful, authentic pizzeria on wheels. Geekiest gear: The air suspension system. Because the mobile pizza oven is made of brick — a building material not necessarily engineered to travel well — this detail required the most thought, time, and money to perfect, ensuring Del Popolo gets to its destination in one piece. Theft deterrent: Darsky is confident the San Francisco Police Department can spot a missing food truck with an oven visible through massive glass doors. Plus, you need a Class B licence to drive it off, anyway. On the wish list: Hungry pedestrians clutching $10 bills.
Images: Eric Zepeda