The Ranieri Family: Alessio, Elizabeth, Raffaele and Armando
My favorite meals are those that are experiences that will be remembered long after the food is gone. I had such a meal last night with the team for a food truck that will be on the road in the next several weeks, Gennarino's.
Gennarino's has been working to finalize their Neapolitan street food menu and contacted me to come do some tasting with them. I had been following on Facebook and was very intrigued by this "friggitoria", the first such food truck in the US, so I immediately jumped at the invitation.
My friend and I arrived at the tasting location and were greeted by the truck owners, Raffaele and his wife Elizabeth and shortly thereafter Raffaele's brothers, Armando and Alessio. As we got comfortable, the brothers told us about their life, how they had very recently moved to the US from Naples and how their food truck came in to existence. It was with this story that I started to see the passion that each of the brothers has for food; there is no way I can do that passion justice in this blog so I encourage you to ask when you visit the truck. And besides, I would rather talk about the food!
Elizabeth showed me the draft of the menu that is being considered for the truck and it is very extensive. I believe this will be a truck that I visit time and time again and never order the same thing twice, it all looks that good. The Ranieris have actually anticipated this and have a loyalty card, buy 5, get 1 free, very good to have!
Our first appetizer was the caprese salad, with freshly homemade mozzarella cheese and fresh tomato. The cheese was soft with a smooth, rich flavor. What a wonderful way to start a meal.
Next was the Panuozzo Caprese, a caprese salad with infused basil oil, inside grilled homemade bread. I expect this to be a very popular item! It is a fresh, cool sandwich that is perfect for a summer day. The bread was not what you would typically think of as sandwich bread, it was the same dough that you would find in a Neapolitan pizza crust, but baked and then split for the sandwich. The bread was light and very flavorful but for me, the highlight of this sandwich was the basilolio, the basil oil. When I commented on how flavorful the basil was, I was told that Alessio is the farmer of the family and this basil was home grown and picked especially for this dish. I don’t think you can get much fresher food than that!
Next up was a medley of the fried items that make the Gennarino truck a "friggitoria". I admit that I am one who does not eat much fried food but with the method of frying that Gennarino's uses, I wasn't left with that greasy unhealthy feeling. I would describe the method as a light, quick pan fry, long enough to crisp the outside but not to allow the oil to seep in to the food itself. All of the flavor of a light oil, none of the yuckiness.
First up was a Panzarotti, or potato croquettes. Think of this as mashed potatoes, compacted together and quickly fried. I could have only eaten the panzarotti and considered it a successful night; it was that good.
Luckily for me, the brothers had other thoughts and next up was two different versions of Arancini, or a rice ball. The first was made with saffron and chopped asparagus and was very flavorful and a nice vegetarian option. The version we tried was also made gluten free, as all of Gennarino's items can be made. I know my veggie loving or gluten intolerant friends will be happy that they can meet me at this truck and not feel that their food options are limited.
The ragu, or meat version of the Arancini reminded me of the Cajun rice balls of my childhood and made me a bit homesick. But on the other hand, excited that I can now find something that tastes like home without having to travel for 6 hours.
Both of the Arancini were full of flavor and were great ways to see how different the taste can be, just by changing a few ingredients.
Next up was a fun item, Timbalo Rosso, or fried Spaghetti and Meatballs. Yes, it was as tasty as it sounds. The pasta and sauce were cooked to perfection and then formed in to a bundle. I had read on one of Gennario’s Facebook posts that their menu included spaghetti that could be eaten as street food, meaning fast, portable, and hand-held. I wasn’t sure how this applied to spaghetti, but it does and I liked it a lot. I think this is an item that the kids in my family will love!
Along with the Timbale Rosso, we sampled the Timbalo Bianco or fried Fettuccine Alfredo. This was so good, the flavor was rich but not overpowering and again, a great way to eat pasta for lunch without worrying about having to change clothes before you start your afternoon. Fabulous idea, fabulous taste!
For dessert, as if we really had room, we had another version of the Arancino, this time, a chocolate one, with a side of chocolate sauce for dipping. At first, I was not sure about pairing rice and chocolate but one taste showed me how wrong I was. The flavor was pure chocolate and the texture of the rice made it interesting and worth a second and third bite. Again, a nice way to see how Anarico can be changed with a few ingredients.
To finish off, we had an Amaretto flavored Italian soda. Light, flavorful and refreshing, it was the perfect way to end the summer evening. I can see me sitting out in a lawn chair, visiting with friends sipping this drink.
It almost goes without saying, this food was amazing and completely different from any food we have in DFW, not only on a truck but in a brick and mortar restaurant. The attention to detail that this family has put in to their business is very impressive. From the menu planning to the logo, every detail represents Naples and the love of its culture and a desire to share it with their new neighbors in DFW.
Raffaele's passion for both his food and for people came through in every food item and every conversation we had. He described his vision as having his truck become a part of a “piazza”, or the central meeting place; a place where people come to eat and to socialize. I can see myself bringing my family to this truck on a Saturday evening, sitting out and visiting with other families, making it a true dining experience that will be remembered long after the food is gone.
I encourage you to follow Gennarinos on Facebook and Twitter. While we wait for the truck’s grand opening, they are posting very interesting details about Italian culture and the food they will be sharing with us. Details about their grand opening are forthcoming, so watch for that announcement soon.