Johnny V. knew the food truck life was for him after Eat St., that Food Network Canada ode to mobile eating, reeled him in with its visions of life on the road. Born in Canada but “Italian built,” as he puts it, there was no question as to what type of nosh he’d be serving in his Rome’n Chariot: Italian comfort food. “The women in my family are my biggest fans and inspiration,” he told us. “These recipes have been passed on from generation to generation.”
Hard to miss, with a huge image on its side of a gladiator making his way past the Coliseum, the chariot sleeps in Mississauga, but can be found roaming anywhere from Toronto to Niagara. When we stopped by, Johnny was in good company at a Queen and Jarvis parking lot, joined by Blue Donkey Streatery and Buster’s Sea Cove, with his crew (including wife Theresa V.) looking buff and bronze in their Milanese aprons. Customers are able to peruse the eats on offer through the display menu under the order window. “We eat with our eyes!” Johnny announced energetically, noting that his is the first truck in town to have one.
While some of the goods are procured locally, others—including the pasta, cheese and biscotti—come straight from Italy. Johnny aims to serve dishes that remind him of coming home from school, and the veal on a bun is his favourite. Featuring caramelized onions, sweet peppers, mozzarella, parmigiano-reggiano and the house marinara sauce, the sandwich’s veal is lightly breaded and deep-fried before being stuffed into a soft Italian kaiser ($8). “It’s off the chart!” he exclaimed. Other options include an eggplant version ($7) and penne primavera with marinara sauce, parmesan and parsley ($6). Carnivorous patrons can add a meatball for $1.50. Drinks include Italian coffee ($3), Orangina ($2.50) and Brio ($2). At the day’s end, any leftover food is given to the hungry. We’re pretty sure Nonna would be proud.