Mississauga Food Trucks: Rome'n Chariot
Johnny Verdile's has quite an amazing and inspiring story. He exudes a highly contagious positive energy and has an extreme passion in what he does which is to simply feed people his families secret recipes on board his food truck called Rome'n Chariot.
Johnny packed up a 30 year span in the construction industry to pursue his passion of sharing his family recipes on the road in his Rome'n Chariot food truck. Having been on the road for less than 6 months, he is living his vision and loving it.
Rome’n Chariot has been featured on CTV, Canada AM, Food Network's Eat Street, Breakfast Television and the Globe and Mail named the Rome'n Chariot as one of the fantastic five in Toronto, serving the best meatballs in the city.
Johnny's passion is in the kitchen and his reward is "serving the people and watching the smile on their faces when they take a bite of my food for the very first time, that's pleasure to me".
Try The Holy Trinity - I was all smiles after eating this for the first time!
Here is the lowdown on Johnny and his Chariot:
Who owns the truck?
Theresa and I are the owners of the truck.
Are you and Theresa a husband and wife team?
Yes we are. We've been married for 12 years and we've worked together for the past decade and a half.
How do you guys not kill each other?!
(laughter) It's been 24/7 since Theresa opened up her first business in back 1996 until today as we speak; we've been working together 24/7 from manufacturing moldings, to interior design and decorating to now having a food truck.
What is your connection to Mississauga?
Theresa went to high school out here at Loyola, she grew up in Mississauga. Her grandparents actually used to own the house that we live in (today) and they lived here for 40 years.
How do you like Mississauga so far?
It's fantastic, it really is and it's a place that I'm glad to call home right now.
Are you both chefs?
Actually, no. Theresa is an interior designer and decorator and actually I come from the construction industry. I always tell people that I'm not a chef, I'm not a cook, (and) I'm just a guy that loves to create beautiful food.
So this is your passion?
Yes this is my baby, and Theresa is working hard trying to get me going and put me in the right direction with all (of) the computer stuff, and all of the rest as well as cooking on board. And this is not for her, this is all me.
It's nice to have a strong woman by your side as your team mate.
She's a toughy, she knows what she's doing. It's great because she's my second opinion right behind me.
We are a fantastic team and I owe so much to her, she's not just a back bone…she's the front of the house as well as the back of the house.
What happened to make you decide - I'm going to do this?
It's always been that I've been fulfilling everyone else's sort of dream or helping everyone else, but I've always put myself on the side and I thought that, you know, at 46 years old now…I better do something ….that I really want to do, and put myself first, and here we are today. And it's been fantastic so far.
Are the recipes yours or your Nonna's recipes?
These recipes are recipes that are handed down from generation to generation. And you know with my Mother being at work when we were young, my Grandmother was in the kitchen and I would always have an eye on the kitchen, and these secrets and little extras that I put in are from Nonna and from my Mother.
Is that what makes it extra special?
It does make it a little extra special but you know, I do put my own little flare into it. Just like the meatballs, (for) Nonna it was always a tradition to put beef, veal and pork. For myself, I eliminate the pork, so that this way I open up the palate up to other religions and cultures. And some people really don't want to have pork. I increase the veal, make it nice and juicy, make it nice and plump and the marinara sauce kicks butt.
What is your signature menu item?
I've got too many. But it's obviously the veal, everyone loves the veal on a bun, and I would have to say right behind that is the meatball slider.
Veal on a bun
How often do your menu items change?
I always like to introduce something new every month. The staples will always be there. I can't get rid of the eggplant on a bun. I can't get rid of the veal or the meatballs. But I'll introduce different pastas every once and awhile whether it be penne or fusilli or the manicotti stuffed with cheese. Now, there's the porchetta sandwich that's come on board and there's also a vegetarian wrap as well, that reminds you of an antipasto meal at an Italian wedding.
Eggplant on a bun
How did you come up with the name Rome'n Chariot?
I love the city of Rome with all of its architecture, coming from the molding industry. Theresa drew the man, the chariot and the horses and I drew all the architectural background on the truck. We sat down and for months, from October to December, we said we'd better come up with something and get it done, because we were going to get into production for this year (2012). And sure enough we came up with it one night right before New Years Eve and there it was - the Rome'n Chariot.
It sounds like long days for you.
It is but you know what, if you can do that and although it is a lot of work and it is tiring, and you can look at yourself at the end of the day in the mirror, and you still have a smile on your face, then you know you're doing the right thing.
Can you tell me something unique about the food truck culture that the general public wouldn't know?
There is a high respect between all of the truckers. Everyone has a great deal of respect for each other. We all even judge each other's food when we get to an event. We'll all make a little bit of food and pass it out to the rest of the "family" (we call it)…. It's a really beautiful, tight family between all of us, and it's great to be a part of it. It's not so much about… who's better…it's all about making sure that we all set the bar high, keep the standards high and put out fantastic food.
If you're on the road and drove by another food truck, is there a universal food trucker greeting you give to one another like a toot of your horn?
I'm the kind of guy that would roll down my window, honk my horn, and wave.
What’s next for Rome’n? More trucks? A restaurant?
No restaurant, but I think the next thing is I'd love to see the Rome'n Chariot work its way across Canada. I'd love to see one in Ottawa, I'd love to see one in Montreal, I'd love to see another one in Calgary, Winnepeg, BC. I'd like to see it go across, and let people taste our food - Molise inspired, which is where I'm from in Italy, taught to you by your Mother and Grandmother, and those traditions come out in the flavour.
What would you like to see more of to benefit the food truck scene in Mississauga?
I'd like to see more trucks. I'd like to see the city open up places for these trucks to go to… not just the two or three that are around. I want to see other trucks come in and show the wide variety of foods. To sum it up, to open up the spots so that us truckers can come out there and give the public what they want.
Where can people find more information about you?
Follow us on twitter @RomenChariot, or our website which is www.romenchariot.ca, and they can follow us on Facebook as well. And if they can't follow us that way then look for the big truck and follow in behind me.