Biagio’s Barone’s is reinventing the wheel. Literally. His GotChef gourmet food truck, which is parked on the Eastbound side of the Milford, CT Metro North Station, is turning the mobile canteen concept on its head. From Monday through Friday, 11:00am-8:00 pm, and Saturday 3-7pm, Chef Biagio and his crew offer up-all natural, creative, delectable cuisine out of his neon yellow restaurant-on-wheels.
You won’t find the typical taco, BBQ-grilled cheese-Belgian waffles-cupcake food truck fare on the GotChef menu. His selections, which vary with the season and change daily, are comparable to anything you can find in an upscale Italian bistro. Some of the recent chalkboard specials include: Capesante Farcito (Stuffed Scallop with Lobster, Shrimp, Sweet Bread Lemon Stuffing in a Scallop Shell, drizzled with Lemon Gremolata), Homemade Pumpkin Gnocchi, Slow Roasted Short Ribs--served over a mushroom truffle risotto, Wild-Grilled Salmone Agrodolce-- topped with a pineapple Sweet and Sour sauce and served over balsamic glazed green beans, and an Osso Bucco, over a bed of creamy mascarpone polenta. The latter is a dish that I was lucky enough to sample. Recent deserts of the day, such as a Chocolate Truffle Cake, Country Apple or Three Berry Tart (made with fruit from local farms), have induced swoons from discerning customers. “We are the only food truck of this kind in the area,” Chef Biagio emphasizes. “Everything is made from scratch. We have perfected it. In that sense—we are no different than any other fine Italian restaurant. It’s all about the food.”
“My inspiration and passion for cooking, is just something that’s been part of me since I was a kid,” he reveals. His exposure to old-world, authentic Cucina Italiana can be traced back to his family’s roots in Southern Napoli. Self-taught, he never went to cooking school. “I’m constantly learning new technique, and making discoveries.”
Last September, after procuring the necessary paperwork and permits, Barone‘s truck was finally ready to move into a primo parking spot--alongside the beautifully renovated Milford Center for the Arts (a former historic Railroad Station.) And quicker than you can say, “All Aboard!”, GotChef was a hit. Weary, hungry commuters, taxi drivers, local business owners and anyone too busy to prepare meals was stopping by: trying, tasting and returning for more. “I now get between 50-100 customers a day, just as walks up and about 30% smart phone orders,” Barone informs me, and has more than 1148 Facebook Fans. Many diners call in, FAX or use their computer/phone device to order online. Later, they arrive to pick up their lunch, dinner for the family or a multicourse course elegant dinner for a crowd. Starting at just $4.99, diners can get a fabulously hearty soup, like Chicken, Artichoke and Gorgonzola, Roasted Tomato Basil or Butternut Squash Apple -- all accompanied by a side fresh of baked Ciabatta Bread. Lunch salads,Wraps and Panini range between $7-9, Dinner prices are at a very reasonable $9-$16 range.
In essence, GotChef is an offshoot of his critically acclaimed Biagios’ Osteria restaurant in Stratford. “The main idea behind our concept”, Barone explains, “Is that going mobile allows me to get my food to places other than my Ryders Landing restaurant. Many of our customers are people getting off the train-- picking up, dropping off, or heading home to somewhere else in Connecticut. Others are going back to New York or here just for the weekend. They may not have a chance to dine at my Stratford location. I make new friends everyday!”
On a very rainy Tuesday afternoon , Biagio cordially arranges for me to get a “truck kitchen tour.” Lunch service is winding down, and skilled line chefs Matt Kochiss and Mike Edwards are starting to prep for the dinner rush. The narrow kitchen, with its gleaming stainless steel counters is absolutely spotless. Supremely organized storage units, cooktop and sink are retro fitted to maximize ease and efficiency. “It’s all customized”, Chef Biagio adds, proudly pointing to the Viking Stove. As Mike deftly flambées a Madeira sauce for a veal dish, Matt checks the roasted peppers for tonight’s Sausage Contadina. Everything looks sublime.
“This is much more fun than a standard restaurant gig,” offers Mike. “It’s challenging, yet creative,” Matt concurs. The duo also enjoys having free reign to contribute their menu ideas to the GotChef repertoire. A piping hot Vegetable Bolognese Lasagna --slow simmered, with a vegetable and pomodoro sauce, three- cheese blend and layers of homemade pasta sheets emerges from the oven. Matt cuts a me a huge chunk—mine, all mine to sample at home, along with another equally generous container of veal fileto di manzo. Later that evening, while my husband and I dine on the scrumptious GotChef creations, we marvel over the quality, taste and freshness of this artfully prepared “takeout”.
By elevating food truck cuisine to loftier heights, Chef Biagio has received accolades and won media attention. At press time, a second GotChef truck will be rolling into Fairfield this winter (exact location TBA). His business has also expanded into mobile vending and catering. A recent Westport birthday bash was a huge success.
“I serve the kind of food that has currently earned my Stratford restaurant a #1 Rating by both Zagat and Opentable diners,” he states. “I have learned to keep it simple, stick to my philosophy of preparing high-end gourmet (mobile) food to go at reasonable prices. The key is to keep it honest 100%-- and you’ll get honesty back.”