A Taste of New York on Four Wheels

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The following article was written & published in 2011:

valentino

Steve Valentino, a New York native, relocated to North Carolina in 2009 with his lovely wife, a heart full of passion and a fist full of meatballs.

Inspired by his Italiano papa, Steve delivers an authentic flavor that Southerners have never experienced before. From the Steve-O Hero, his signature slow-cooked tomato-sauced meatballs on garlic bread, to his phenomenal Betty Melt, an amazing multi-cheese sandwich grilled on his one-of-a-kind “Shotgun Betty” beer bread.

Of course, this fantastic operation didn’t just transpire overnight. Back on Long Island, NY, Steve was a jack-of-all-trades. A painter, a sculptor, a chef and a special effects make-up artist with a day job. A young man in search for his calling.

For nearly a decade, Steve and his fiancee, Christina – a former student of East Carolina University – visited friends in Raleigh, NC on a regular basis. They fell in love with the pleasant city and decided to move there, shortly after their wedding in April 2009.

Christina was fortunate enough to have her job transferred to North Carolina. Steve, on the other hand, was not so lucky. He had lost his job in the midst of the recession and was stranded and unemployed, along with the millions of other Americans. But, being the go-getter that he is, Steve managed to turn a negative into a positive.

If nobody wants to hire me, he thought, then I will!

So, he pursued the food vending industry, with intentions on possibly running a hotdog cart in downtown Raleigh.

Steve did his research and inquired with the local zoning board. He advised them on how he wanted to include additional menu items on his hot dog cart, such has his home style Italian cuisine – which would have been a perfect idea; but, the board had to decline his proposal. According to regulations, in order for him to serve his own specialties, Steve would have to acquire an enclosed kitchen.

Unbeknownst to the growth of the food truck industry, Steve was on the hunt for four wheels and an engine. And, in February 2010… he found it!

A Grumman Step Van.

It was in terrible condition and reeked from the previous owner’s fish business. Nevertheless, Steve saw its potential and was fortunate enough to have his handy-dandy brother Frank in town at the time.

Frank was able to guide and assist his ambitious brother through all the rough patches and together, along with the support from his wife and local friends, they built the truck that stands today.

Valentino’s Food Truck was born!

But, where was he going to park and serve?

Being a beer enthusiast and a home brewer, Steve stumbled upon the LoneRider Brewery, home of the Shotgun Betty – a sensational wheat beer with an insignia modeled after the tap-room’s charismatic bartender, Jackie.

Just like an outlaw from the Old West, Steve stepped over the threshold of the LoneRider and caused dead silence. He gazed upon the bewildered patrons, as their eyes locked on his presence. They observed, as he slowly wandered to the bar, where Jackie courageously welcomed him.

He ordered a beer, and then had a thought for the bartender.

“I reckon you don’t serve food here, do ya, darlin’?”

“Sorry, stranger,” Jackie replied. “But, you can bring food in.”

“Well, what if I told ya I wanted to bring food and cook it here?”

“What do you mean? Like a barbecue?”

“No, ma’am. Like a food truck.”

Of course, Jackie thought it was a brilliant idea. So, she introduced Steve to the owners and they immediately embraced his proposal. They felt it was a suitable addition to their establishment and they gave Steve a place to go on a weekly basis.

On Thursdays and Fridays, Valentino’s Food Truck pulls up alongside their loading dock. Menus are placed at the bar, Steve fires up the grill, and then he takes care of dinner from 5pm – 9pm. Ales for outlaws and food for foodies – YEEHAW!

Valentino’s Food Truck eventually extended their services at Big Boss Brewery, where they serve lunch and late-night dishes to the patrons on Fridays.

Steve has certainly developed a symbiotic relationship between the breweries and his food truck. He even incorporates their beer in some of his recipes, such as LoneRider’s Shotgun Betty – the ingredient that encompasses the “Betty Melt” (UPDATE: Now called the “Lindy Melt”). He creates sauces and glazes with the beer, as well, and has been able to be quite creative with his cuisine.

In only a half year of business, Valentino’s Food Truck has already made an impact on the Raleigh community, with numerous followers from not only the breweries, but from a variety of special events, as well.

Steve manages his business with pride and, for the first time in his life, strongly believes he has found his calling.

Mike Polizzi 

The above article was originally published in the Raleigh Downtowner Magazine, Volume 7, Issue 4.

The following is a short video I produced in 2010, covering Valentino’s Food Truck.

Valentino’s Food Truck on Yelp!

Valentino’s on Twitter

Valentino’s Website