Saturday, September 25, 2010

Latitude 33: Heal the Bay Food Truck Festival

"Making a Difference"

Photo Description:
Vince Greenlee-(LF) Latitude 33, John Seiber-(RT) Director of Development, Heal the Bay

I have been supporting the Heal the Bay for over 10 Years now by various methods such as; money donations and volunteering with coastal clean up day. The Coastal Cleanup day, is very important to the beach communities such as Santa Monica and Venice. This year is Heal the Bay's Silver Anniversary, wow 25 years of making a difference in keeping Southland beaches, inland waterways, regional parks and urban neighborhoods clean.

This years Festival was organized by Latitude 33 and held on there property at 330 Washington Blvd in  Marina Del Rey, Ca. Latitude 33 sets a new standard in modern beach living. The Sales Gallery is now open and designer-furnished model homes are available for touring daily from 10am to 6pm.

For more information on Latitude 33, visit The community is also on Facebook at and Twitter @latitude33. See Personal interview with Latitude 33.

On Saturday, September 25th, over 14,000 volunteers braved the heat and cleaned Southland beaches, inland waterways, regional parks and urban neighborhoods, which was a record. Some 14,131 volunteers mobilized from 9 a.m. to noon at 65 sites throughout the county, covering 101 miles and removing 103,524 pounds of debris. I call that dedication. I was able to meet some of the Heal the bay volunteers and board members at the Heal the Bay Food Truck Festival, sponsored by Latitude 33 and Heal the Bay. The Gourmet food trucks gave 10% of their proceeds made that day to Heal The Bay charity to help them continue their great work and be here another 25 years. Special recognition goes to all 29 gourmet food trucks that participated are as follows:

The Trucks:
The Grilled Cheese Truck,Papas Tapas,Big Swirl,Fry Smith,Del’s Lemonade,
Vesuvio,India Jones,Ahn-Joo,KababExpress,Buttermilk Truck,Border Grill,
Dosa Truck,Morsels Truck,Lake Street Creamery,The Sweets Truck,Phamish,
Organic Oasis,Lardon,Get Shaved Ice,SliceTruck,Tango Mango,Mambo Juice
The Flying Pig,CoolHaus,The Dumpling Station,The Shrimp Pimp,Canters
No Reservations,Dim Sum Truck.

Sometimes the simplest things make the most sense, The Grilled Cheese Truck is no exception. Michele Grant who is the co owner shown above holding some delicious gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches done right! Her partner in crime
co owner Dave Danhi would agree. They believe that doing simple things right make a difference and their following demonstrates that they have the right stuff. We sampled 3 of their hot, cheesy and tasty creations of heaven. I have dined at this gourmet food truck on different occasions, the food has always been fresh, hot, and delicious, along with being met by friendly staff. Hooray for Cheese!!

Chef Sumant Pardal believes in a simple concept of focusing on a few things, but doing them right. This Northern Indian gourmet food truck called India Jones Chow Truck does just that with Indian street food.The Frankie is his signature menu item, that is various well seasoned meats wrapped in a indian flat bread called Roti, its just plain delightful to your taste buds. Also, the India Jones truck offers vegetarian options, which have been most delectable. Food of this quality only attained by experience. If your jonesing for a great street food snack go see Chef Sumant at the India Jones truck, tell him Big Tony Ragu sent you!

My friend Adam Gertler from Next Food Network Star Season 4 who is now on a show called "Kid in a Candy Store" is currently running on the Food Network channel came by to do an exclusive interview with Food Adventures of Big Tony Ragu on a new food truck's first festival, the Lardon aka "Bacon" truck with co owner Jeremiah Crowley. This interviewed was 10 minutes of fun, food , and entertainment of 3 food enthusiasts sharing experiences.

Jerry was a down to earth regular guy with a visionary wife, Heather Crowley who helped create and made us some of the most tasty bacon inspired breakfast eatz we have had in a long time. I'm now a breakfast lover thanks to the Lardon truck!

I was not sure of what to expect, but was intrigued to investigate further after speaking with the son of the Italian inspired VesivioLA food truck, Matt Giangrande at the First Friday's event in Venice, CA.

I was greeted by a friendly man who called himself Vince. I'm a traditional Italian guy who grew up on food made from scratch using the best fresh ingredients such as; Arancini Di Riso, Ragu Napoletano, and Baduzzi a Broru to name a few. After, sampling the eggplant and meatball sliders, along with the Arancini, I knew Vince Giangrande understood tradition and has respect for doing things the right way, it was tasted in his Ragu Napoletano (naples inspired sauce).

I raise my glass to VesuvioLA and the Giangrande family for sharing great food and Italian tradition from their Italian inspired gourmet food truck. My Grandfather would say "Noi non potemo avere perfetta vita senza amici." I thank you Vince for being my new Amico.

There are many Asian fusion food trucks on the road nowa days. There are very few that stay grounded by tradition. The EatPhamish Vietnamese truck is one of those few Vietnamese only trucks that embrace tradition. Lisa "momma love" as patrons call her, made some delicious spring rolls and a Banh Mi to sample while we interviewed her about the EatPhamish truck and her delightful menu.

EatPhamish Vietnamese food truck: Hai Tran Special Story

I stumbled upon the EatPhamish website back in August and read a very touching story of a man named Hai Tran who started the EatPhamish food truck with the Le family as a cook and driver. According to the owner Lisa "Momma Love" Le, Hai is an inspiration. Hai has one kidney and its failing, he has been told he has 6 months to a year before complications would set in. The story touched me so much that I spoke with Lisa's Son Hac one day to understand the story and to discuss their wonderful menu.

Hai travels 2 hours each way to work on the EatPhamish truck. He works for many hours cooking and standing on his feet serving as he says, happy customers enjoying EatPhamish's food. Hai feels weak most of the time but does not complain, he just keeps going as best he can, because he loves what he does, making people smile. The Le family treats him as a family member.

I'm doing this special story to bring awareness to donating an organ to save a life. Please encourage our Food truck community to get tested and donate a kidney to help! You can contact the Le Family from their EatPhamish website, email at Donor or contact the National Kidney Foundation to learn more. I will be updating this article with a live interview with Hai as he was unable to work at the Heal the Bay event on Saturday.In closing, I would like to say "cảm ơn bạn mẹ Yêu." to Lisa Le and to Hai Tran cảm ơn bạn for sharing their stories.

We had heard about the Shrimp Pimp truck and found out that the Owner/Chef  Neil Macleod was featured on the Rachel Ray Show that aired September 21st. Neil creates his own twist on his shrimp inspired menu like an artist paints on his canvas.

We sampled a few of the Shrimp Pimp's appetizing signature menu such as the Drunken Shrimp, a twist on a sherry infused ginger sauce finished off with a few lightly sweet orange slices. The Victoria, an elegant twist on a Po Boy style french roll, with well season sauteed shrimp, nice portion of smoked salmon, a bed of baby greens, and finished off with a nicely spiced aioli cream dressing. Cannot wait to try the rest of Shrimp Pimp's artful menu selections. Enjoy his video interview.

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Heal the Bay In Marina Del Rey Saturday Sept. 25th

See exclusive video from my friend Next Food Network Star Season 4: Adam Gertler from Kid in a Candy Store with Big Tony Ragu interviewing the Lardon Truck along with exclusive Heal the Bay event Video Coverage. Not to be missed!
This Saturday, a slew of L.A.s Best Food trucks are joining forces to help raise money for Heal the Bay immediately following Coastal Clean-Up Day.

The fundraiser will benefit Heal the Bay and the International Bird Rescue and Research Center, which has been actively involved in the rescue of seabirds affected by the BP Deepwater Horizon well blow-out along the Gulf Coast. Attendees will be able to directly contribute to these causes in one of two ways – purchase of food truck cuisine and direct donations to the organizations.

The Beach Gives Back Food Festival will feature over 25 of LA’s most popular food trucks and will make L.A.’s best street fare available in one spot at one time for a good cause. The event will commence directly following the end of the Coastal Clean-Up at noon; both Coastal Clean-Up volunteers and all others are encouraged to attend.

The event is open to all members of the public and unlike most Food Truck Festivals - there will be NO general admission fee. The trucks will be generously donating 10% of their proceeds.

The Trucks:
1.      The Grilled Cheese Truck
2.      Papas Tapas
3.      Big Swirl
4.      Fry Smith
5.      Del’s Lemonade
6.      Vesuvio
7.      India Jones
8.      Ahn-Joo
9.      KababExpress
10.   Buttermilk Truck
11.  Lake Street Creamery
12.  Morsels Truck
13.  Border Grill
14.  Dosa Truck
15.  The Sweets Truck
16.  DimSum Truck
17.  Organic Oasis
18.  Lardon
19.  Get Shaved Ice
20.  SliceTruck
21.  Tango Mango
22.  The Dumpling Station
23.  The Flying Pig
24.   Mambo Juice
25.  The Shrimp Pimp
26.  CoolHaus
27.  Phamish 
28.  Canters
29.  No Reservations

Beyond O2 Water is donating water to decrease plastic bottles – Guests are encouraged to bring a reusable bottle!

About Heal the Bay
Now in its 25th year, Heal the Bay is dedicated to making Santa Monica Bay and Southern California watersheds and coastal waters safe and healthy for people and marine life. It is one of the largest nonprofit environmental organizations in Los Angeles County, with more than 13,000 members. For more information on Heal the Bay, visit

About Coastal Clean-Up Day
Coastal Clean-Up Day is an annual international event drawing volunteers in more than 90 countries in a worldwide effort to clean and protect the world’s beaches and waterways. The Los Angeles Coastal Clean-Up event draws upwards of 14,000 volunteers in a concerted effort to clean the beaches of southern California. LA volunteers are able to select among 50 clean-up sites in the region. The closest clean-up sites to the Latitude 33 event will be the Grand Canal Lagoon in Venice at 3300 Strongs Dr. and the Venice Beach Pier at Washington Blvd. and Ocean Front Walk; for the additional locations, go to

Last year’s LA event volunteers together cleaned up more than 300,000 pounds of trash and recyclables along the coast and waterways of Southern California.

About International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) The International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) has been helping birds around the world since 1971. Its mission is to mitigate human impact on aquatic birds and other wildlife. This is achieved through rehabilitation, emergency response, education, research, planning and training. For more information on IBRRC, visit

About Latitude 33 Latitude 33 sets a new standard in modern beach living with three distinctive, yet complementary, lifestyle home collections - SKY, BOARDWALK and BEACH. Sales have commenced with pricing from the high $600,000s to $2.6 Million. The Sales Gallery is now open and designer-furnished model homes are available for touring daily from 10am to 6pm. For more information on Latitude 33, call (310) 881-6600 or visit The community is also on Facebook at and Twitter @latitude33

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dinner under the Stars Torrance, California

'Alpine Village: Gourmet Food Truck Fest Wednesday Nights

We spoke with the Alpine Village General Manager Otto Radtke who explained that although Alpine Village is  best known for its Oktoberfest, that the interest for gourmet food trucks was to bring a different type of crowd to the property that might not patronage the Alpine Village. To accommodate the expected crowds, Alpine Village will install more outdoor tables and chairs outside the Village's popular German market and deli. They will also open the doors of the adjoining restaurant that serves only breakfast and lunch so food truck customers can sit at the tables inside. Enjoy Otto's behind the scenes video interview.

The Event was the brain child of Rob Grier of the Munchie Machine. Rob like most gourmet food trucks are always looking for new venues to introduce their food to new comers and regulars alike. The event is called "Dinner under the Stars" and starts from 6 to 9 p.m every Wednesday night. You can expect many diverse cuisines such as; Cuban food from the Cafe Con Leche truck to Northern Indian street food from India Jones Chow truck, with some sweet notes from Chunk N Chip to name a few. The food trucks will be rotating each week. You can find event information at or talk with Glen De Baca. Enjoy the video!

It was a great and busy Wednesday night with a big crowd enjoying various great food trucks to tantalize their taste buds. We sampled Cafe Con Leche, Mobile Maroni, Ragin Cajun truck, and enjoyed one of the best  ice cream cookie sandwiches from the Chunk N Chip truck.

When you think of salsa, great Cuban food with strong coffee you're probably thinking about the Cafe Con Leche truck owned by Gabriel Martinez and Chef Frankie. This truck is the 1st of its kind and will be offering online ordering soon to make it easier to get your Cubana food on. Chef Frankie is responsible for the Cuban inspired menu, which is awesome! We sampled a few of the menu items such as; the Cuban sandwich, a traditional sandwich made with fresh cuban bread grilled to perfection with jamon, slow roasted pork that you can break with your tonque, swiss cheese, hardy mustard, and crunchy pickles to top it off, make it a lip smacking good experience. The Manolo-Pan con Bistec, steak sandwich was palomilla style- Mention palomilla to a Cuban and his eyes will light with pleasure. Like so much grilled fare, palomilla (pronounced "pal-o-me-ya") is a poor man’s dish that has been elevated to gastronomic indulgence. The term refers to a thin, flavorful steak cut from the bottom round (la bola in Spanish). Because bottom round can be rather tough, the steak is cut thin (about the width of your baby finger) to make it seem more tender. (muy Sabrosa), with grilled onions, crushed gourmet potato chips added a nice crunch, sweet tomatoes, swiss cheese, and Chef Frankie's creamy with a hint of heat special sauce to complete this work of art. I would change the name to El Delicioso! The last item we tasted was the Pastelitos de Guayaba y Queso, which is guava and goat cheese baked in a lighly browned empanada shell, yes they make their own empanada's too. Simply incredible are the skills of Chef Frankie. The Cafe Cuban drink brings me back to my traditional Italian roots of sitting around the table drinking strong espresso coffee with my grandfather. Agradecimiento Cafe Con Leche!  Please enjoy the 2 videos for an inside look at the owners behind the food of the Cafe Con Leche Cuban mobile truck.

The next stop on our food orgy was the Ragin Cajun from the The Great Food Truck Race Team on the Food Network. Stephen Domingue was not available for an interview, but we will catch up with him in another food adventure as Steve is a big fan. We did sample the Cajun Shrimp Po Bo, which was a nicely seasoned and battered shrimp with a tasty cajun rémoulade dressing and of course the Gumbolaya with the smoked andouille sausage, garlic, cajun seasoning, seafood, and chicken in a thickened roux makes anyone say "Ca c'est bon." See photos below of the food we enjoyed.

I first had Jodi Maroni's sausages back in 1981 when I moved to California from NYC. I met Jodi Maroni in Venice at his first storefront as he would come out and put on a show to sell his delicious food. Jodi's son Alex is running the Maroni Mobile, which is serving out some great sausages. We tried the Kode Beef with the natural pork casing for a nice snap when you bite into that lovely American Kobe Beef sausage that is topped off with grilled bell peppers and sweet onions, Maroni Traditional Brat, and the old school Yucatan made with chicken-turkey sausage, serrano chilies, cilantro, Dos Equis beer and topped off with Pico De Gallo. As the Most Interesting Man in the World says "I don't always eat sausages, but when I do its Jodi Maroni's." Enjoy the food pic and video interview below of the great sausages we devoured!

After a night of some great savory food. It was time to sweeten the finish. We tried the new fall flavor pumpkin spice cookie w/maple ice cream - YUM!! We covered this delightful ice cream sandwich truck at its debut for the OC Foodie Fest back in August of 2010. They took the 2nd place Yelp award out of 49 trucks and was the only dessert inspired truck to even place. You want the best ice cream sammies in LA check out the Chunk N Chip truck and tell them Big Tony Ragu sent you there! Now that is the way to end a great Wednesday night at "Dinner under the Stars" in Alpine Village.

YUM!!! Pumpkin Spice and Maple ice cream.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Papas Tapas Driving the Art of Tradition to the Streetz of LA

When you think of Traditional Spanish Tapas you think small dishes. The term actually comes from the Spanish Verb "Tapar", which means to cover. The legend is that the tapas tradition began when the king of Castile, Spain recovered from an illness by drinking wine with small dishes between meals. After regaining his health, the king ordered that taverns would not be allowed to serve wine to customers unless it was accompanied by a small snack or "tapa."  Today the serving of tapas is designed to encourage conversation because people are not so focused upon eating an entire meal that is set before them.

Photo Description:
Daughter Sarah (L) Chef Mike (LC) Wife Julia (RC)  Shaun (Right)

I first tried this Tapas on wheels down on the famous truck gathering know as First Fridays on Abbot Kinney BLVD in Venice, CA. I was not sure of what to expect, but was impressed by the menu, enjoyed the friendly staff who came down from their truck to share a little about who Papa's Tapas Truck was, even though they were sold out of most items, Chef Mike Muccia and his charming wife Julia put a nice Tri-tip Taco dish together for me. I will have to say that it was one of the best Tri-tip Tacos I had in many years, soft and plastic fork tender well balanced flavors that made my lips say OLE!

I have tasted the entire delicious menu of this gourmet Spanish Tapas Truck several times from special events to normal service days. The food has been consistently great and their overall service has been quick and friendly. This food truck always has consistent lines of happy followers and is frequently sold out on many occasions, which is a testament to their quality of food. This family owned food truck has allowed me into their world to experience their passion and family values that makes the Papa's Tapas Truck so successful.

Enjoy the behind the scenes, personal interview video, and PICS of the food Chef Mike and the Muccia Family shared. Gracias! por todo lo que la familia Muccia!

Photo Description:
Chef Mike cooking up some amazing Garlic Shrimp. He looks proud!

Photo Description:
Slices of baguettes, lightly grilled with olive oil accompanied by various toppings:
  • Garlic Shrimp with parsley.
  • Spanish Chorizo with Manchego cheese.
  • Strawberries with Marscapone cheese, drizzled with honey.

Photo Description:
Tortilla Esponola:
Traditional Spanish omelet made with potatoes and onion and sprinkled with parsley and served with roasted red pepper aioli.Served with a salad, olives, and slices of French bread.

Photo Description:
Happy Papa's Tapas Customer at the Granada Hills Movie Night And Food Truck Fest! enjoying some great tasting Paella: Traditional Spanish rice dish with chicken, shrimp, peas, and roasted red peppers, flavored with an array of Spanish spices, accompanied by slices of French bread and a salad.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Join me for a New Food Adventure with Exclusive Interview of the Papas Tapas Truck

Granada Hills Movie Night And Food Truck Fest!

Join me Big Tony Ragu for a new food adventure in Granada Hills at their 1st annual Movie Night And Food Truck Fest this Saturday, Sept. 11 at Granada Hills Recreation Center, 16730 Chatsworth St., Granada Hills. Admission is free. Food Trucks start serving at 6pm, a screening of The Incredibles begins at dusk.

We will be be doing an exclusive behind the scenes interview of the Popular Papas Tapas Truck with video and photos of the night with some intermissions from some other popular gourmet food trucks along the way. We look forward to seeing all of our friends there.