Our weekly bite explores the city's food trucks, one at a time, highlighting our favorite mobile dishes and snacks.
The Truck: Del Popolo
The Cuisine: Italian
Specialty Items: Wood fired pizzas
Worth the Wait in Line? At peak lunch time, a total 20 minutes from the end of the line to food in hand.
One of the big heavies of the food truck realm, Del Popolo, has been on my list to cover since I started this column. When they first hit the street, there was so much breathless chatter about it (mostly due to the truck itself) that I decided to wait and cover them once things had settled in. After months of comically disparate schedules, the truck and I met again at a few different locations.
See also: Best-Looking Food Truck - Del Popolo
The huge wood fired oven really is a marvel to behold, as is watching the steaming blistered pies emerge from the oven, their collar of crust decorated with a lovely leopard spotting. While the two standard pies were good, it was the current special Potato Pizza ($14, mozzarella, fingerling potato, Parmesan cheese, rosemary, salami) that really impressed me. Thin coins of potato add touches of sweetness that compliment the Parmesan cheese without feeling like starch overload. The rosemary provides fragrance along with flavor, but not so much that it overwhelmed, while the small batons of salami added a salty-fatty presence. All together the ingredients add up to a truly great pie.
The Bianca Pizza ($12, ricotta, mozzarella, garlic, basil) was my favorite of the two standards, with enough garlic to frighten vampires, but not so much that it does the same to your friends. It also had enough cheese to cover the crust with dairy fat goodness, but not so much that it made it greasy.
This brings up the most crucial thing about the pizza: the crust. It's wonderful and maddening at the same time. Fresh from the fire the crust is delicately crispy, with the sour tang that says it was properly proofed long and slow to develop flavor, and a great chew. At this state, it has an improbable balance of light yet substantial, graceful yet strong. But let it sit for a few minutes and its life starts to fade, such that by the time it's cold, its mostly chewy without any crispness left. These are pizzas that should be eaten immediately, not lingered about, and certainly should not be boxed.
Of the pizzas, the most classic, the Margherita ($11, tomato, mozzarella, basil), was for me the least balanced. The sour tang of the crust is amplified by the abundant tomato sauce, but did not sport enough richness to counter that. Adding pepperoni ($2.50 more to any pie) improves it (as it would any pizza from this truck), mostly because the quality of the large meaty discs, crisp on the edges and tender in the middle, are so damn good.
It is fascinating how different locations affected the variation in wait times -- from 30 minutes in some spots, to 10 in others at the same time of day. Pro tip: the Mint Plaza stop seems to have the secret sauce necessary for shorter waits.
The price may discourage some, but a couple of slices made fine lunch and two pies between three people made for an awesome pizza party.