By The DOK Staff
In our constant effort to bring you the best culinary experiences that Oklahoma has to offer, we feature a first for Distinctly Oklahoma magazine – a food truck review. But you know that if we’re sharing it with you, The Saucee Sicilian is truly worth trying!
Ganan Mendez had been in the medical industry for 17 years when the time seemed right to start a food business. After much research, Ganan and his family decided to ride the wave of current popularity enjoyed by food trucks. Although the start-up cost is relatively less than a brick-and-mortar restaurant, theirs would need some hefty modifications. First, they had to remove a whole wall to put in the wood-fired oven, then rebuilt the truck with help from Ganan’s father-in-law, a homebuilder. It’s just a room on wheels, right? The rear axel needed special reinforcement to support the real brick oven, weighing in at about 3,500 pounds and custom made by a third-generation wood-fired oven maker in Dallas – The Bread Stone Oven. Ganan’s wife and a friend painted the truck, which features exposed bricks through crumbling stucco – resembling an Italian restaurant – with names of corporate sponsors, similar to race cars.
This food truck, the largest in the state, also has the largest seating capacity of any food truck – 15-seat wrap-around shaded tables that fold down from the truck, with three satellite TVs so you never have to miss a sporting event.
Welcoming the opportunity to work with his family, Ganan especially enjoys being near his mother, fondly referred to as “Nonna,” every day. Although it’s a lot of work, this is everything Ganan wanted it to be, and he could not be any happier – he gets to be with his family, and they have earned a great following on social media.
But don’t let the name Mendez fool you. His great-grandmother, Lena Costanzo, was born in Santa Ninfa, Sicily in 1903 and emigrated to America with her grandparents in 1912. It is her delicious recipes that are lovingly recreated from scratch every day, and in her honor, they’ve been “Getting Sauced Since 1903.”
A typical Sunday night feast for the Costanzo family could include 20-40 people each week. Lena cooked with love in the Sicilian tradition, and Ganan and his family are continuing that tradition by bringing Lena’s old world recipes to the new world and making their customers happy.
The Saucee Sicilian has been in business about six months, and was the first food truck at the opening of the Bleu Garten, Oklahoma’s first food truck park. They make regular appearances there, so check the schedule at www.bleugarten.com. They also brought their wood-fired oven to the recent Heard on Hurd fest in Edmond.
Everything served by The Saucee Sicilian is made from scratch, including the mozzarella, pizza dough that takes a day to prepare, meatballs and Italian sausage, homemade pasta, and sauces from whole tomatoes that take two full days to cook. Nonna has written all the recipes down, but she won’t tell Ganan all her secrets.
Starters include Focaccia, which is a baked dough that is seasoned with fresh rosemary, sea salt and first press extra virgin olive oil, and arrives puffed up like an air-filled ball. Who said you couldn’t play with your food?
There’s also Nonna’s famous meatballs with marinara – Sauce and Balls. Nonna makes between 500-700 meatballs each week at their commissary, a commercial kitchen. Their food truck doesn’t have room for prepping sauces and rising dough, especially with a temperature of about 118 degrees during the summer. The wood-fired oven itself takes about two and a half hours to reach 850 degrees, and the truck is manned by at least eight people – Ganan’s wife makes the pizzas when she’s not at her “real” job, Ganan cooks them in the brick oven, and Nonna is at the window taking orders, talking to people and telling their story.
The Neapolitan-style pizzas all feature Nonna’s red sauce, and take just two minutes to fully cook in the wood-fired oven. Choices include the Margherita (mozzarella, sea salt, extra virgin olive oil and basil), Syracuse (mozzarella), Catania (mozzarella, pepperoni and basil), Genovese (mozzarella, mushrooms, artichoke, caramelized onion, olive, garlic and basil), Palermo (mozzarella, Nonna’s Italian meatballs, caramelized onion, pesto and basil), Santa Ninfa (mozzarella, prosciutto, artichoke, mushroom, garlic, extra virgin olive oil and basil) and Noto (mozzarella, hot soppressata, Nonna’s Italian meatballs, garlic and basil).
Humidity comes into play when creating their pizza dough, which is a breadier dough that requires just the right amount of water. The elevation between Stillwater and Oklahoma City makes a difference in the humidity, so they must take this into account when traveling to different venues. In the summer, the dough rises even while sitting in the refrigerator inside the hot truck. Reason enough to not try this at home!
They also serve “panuozzi,” sandwich ingredients stuffed in pizza dough and baked in the brick oven, similar to a calzone. Plans are in the works to start serving homemade pasta at least three times a week this winter, with homemade sauces including pesto, red sauce or white sauce.
Their meats – capicola, prosciutto and sopprressata – are sent here by a cousin in New York. A bit pricier, but very authentic.
Finally, their dessert, Buona Vita, is a S’mores calzone – chocolate, marshmallow and powdered sugar on a 10-inch pizza dough, folded over and baked. Cut in half so the melted gooeyness can be fully appreciated and eaten on the run. What a treat!
Since their food is made to order, never anything frozen, be prepared to spend a few extra minutes waiting for your pizza or panuozzi sandwich to bake. But it will be well worth the wait!
In a contest held by “Mobile Cuisine,” the number one food truck publication on the Internet, The Saucee Sicilian was ranked the second-best pizza food truck in the nation, the only truck from Oklahoma to be even nominated by popular vote.
Family was and is the most important nucleus in Sicilian society, and nothing is more important than getting together with the family at the end of the day and enjoying a home-cooked meal. So follow them at www.thesauceesicilian.com, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and mangia! Mangia! Mangia!