Mike Madriaga 11:30 a.m., Oct. 17
Truck Week: The Diva of Operacaffe
Truck report #3 (From the Food Truck gathering at 57 Degrees, 1735 Hancock Street, Middletown, 619-234-5757 (5/19/12):
You get the feeling that this truck has to be good, because Jim, the guy who has been taking all our $2 entrance fees, is here, munching down on a tiramisu ($2).
“Excellent, my dear,” he says to the gal in the window of this big truck, Operacaffe Mobile. It shines out into the night with the whole of its side a photo of the ponte vecchio in Florence, Italy, the bridge with the houses on top.
“For the love of food,” says the sign above the menu.
“I’m a coccoli fanatic,” says this enthusiastic guy, Brandon. “They’re deep-dried balls of pizza dough stuffed with stracchino cheese. Six dollars here. Oh man. Everything tastes better deep-fried or wrapped.”
“What’s that?” I ask this gal Amanda. She’s standing here with a paper tray of French bread and cheesy mess. “Cheese cannelloni, $8,” she says. Kinda like lasagna. Perfect.”
“And this is the pork shank with risotto,” says this tall guy, Sanjay.
He says it cost him $12.
“It’s our special,” says the girl from the high counter. “That and our breaded cod summer sandwich. It’s $9 and you get fries with that.”
I see they also have “Padrino fries” with a meat Bolognese sauce and parmesan cheese for $6.
The gal’s Kika, short for Federica. She’s the daughter of the couple who started Operacaffe downtown (835 4th Avenue, 619-234-6538). “Dad makes the bread, mom’s the chef,” she says. “But here in the mobile it’s Tony who makes everything.”
So what to have? It’s almost closing time, around nine, so no dithering here.
Entrées include things like meat lasagna ($8), fish and chips ($8), and arancini, fried rice balls with mozzarella ($6). The classy sandwiches include the ribeye in a red wine reduction sauce ($10), and the meatball ($8).
I decide on their namesake sandwich, the Opera. Specially because Kika says if you eat it, you'll sing like Pavarotti.
It comes with a big slab of breaded chicken with mixed greens, with a bruschetta tomato/onion/garlic/herb mix on top ($8). Like all the sandwiches it comes with fries.
And believe me, there’s a whole lotta chicken in here. A hoagie’s worth.
“Why Florence?” I ask Kika, looking at the massive photo-wrap.
“Because it is the city of love,” she says. “It’s where my parents came from. It’s the home of Tuscan Cuisine.”
Uh oh. Lights are starting to dim. Food trucks are hauling out of here.
Guess I’ll have to eat the rest of this up in the 57 Degree building, with a plastic cup of IPA ($5), heh heh.