DuraStar: Pizza Wheels

The Chicago Pizza Boss takes its Italian family recipes to the streets.

BY: KENT BLACK

PHOTOS BY: ROARK JOHNSON


When Giuseppe Badalamenti came up with the idea for a pizza truck, his wife, Antonella, was skeptical.

“I told him I would only do it if there was a brick oven on board,” says Antonella, 31, whose parents emigrated from Bari in southern Italy. Giuseppe, 36, chuckles. “She didn’t believe I’d figure out a way to do it.”

The next day Giuseppe read a story in a magazine about a chef in San Francisco who had put a pizza oven on a truck and was selling pies as fast as he could make them. “I thought to myself, hey, this is something I’m going to figure out how to do.”

He started by purchasing a $10,000, 5,000-pound dome-style oven capable of reaching internal temperatures of nearly 1,000 degrees while maintaining an external temperature of 100 degrees. Then, after tracking down the shell that would hold his portable pizzeria (a converted shipping container) and a power source that could handle two fryers and two refrigerators (a Cummins Onan diesel generator), he came to the truck itself. He had no trouble when it came to that decision.

“International is a local company, so I’ve always been a big fan,” he says. His DuraStar® had traveled 260,000 miles delivering pastries for the Hostess company, but, says Giuseppe, “I had zero issues with it…which is a testimony to the kind of trucks they build.” In addition to the Allison transmission, Badalamenti loved the solid chassis and the rear air shocks, which allow the container to get lower to the ground in order to better serve customers.

After installing the oven, the truck now handles an impressive final weight: 24,000 pounds. “We’re not really in a rush to get anywhere,” he laughs, “so we drive pretty slow.”

The Pizza Boss team experienced its baptism by fire less than a month after they took possession, at a food truck extravaganza. “We worked for eight straight hours,” says Antonella, who takes the orders while Giuseppe and three other chefs move deftly around the 160-square-foot space, churning out pizzas in 90 seconds. “But it is really fun to be working with my husband. The best part is all the different faces who come up to the window.”

Though pizzas such as the Margherita and the prosciutto and arugula are big sellers, the Boss also specializes in caprese salad, arancini (deep-fried Arborio rice balls stuffed with goodies) and panzerotti (stuffed, deep-fried dough). “We try to stick with the classics, like dishes I learned from my grandmother on summer vacations in Bari,” says Antonella. “But when my husband gets some downtime, he likes to experiment…and that’s when things get dangerous.”