First Look: Fidel Gastro’s, a new food truck for a popular pop-up sandwich shop
By David Ort
Fidel Gastro's food truck (Images: David Ort)
After much anticipation, pop-up food vendor Fidel Gastro’s officially launched its food truck last Thursday. The business began as a way for owner Matt Basile to serve his open-ended take on Cuban sandwiches — hence the name — when he couldn’t get financing for a restaurant.
Basile’s happy that the truck will give him “an opportunity to elaborate on the extremo sandwich concept,” he says, by greatly expanding his kitchen toolbox and allowing him to offer sides like the Pad Thai French fries ($6), which were on the menu last Thursday. The truck takes its name, Priscilla, from the Elvis theme that Fidel Gastro’s favours (Basile is known for toting a bust of the King to his events).
Sandwiches are still at the core of the menu, including standards like The Sergeant Slather (pulled pork, guacamole and tortilla chips), but with options like the Kingzilla (kimchi with root-beer-braised short rib) and the Diablo’s Right Wing (pulled butter chicken and a banh mi-like carrot slaw), Basile obviously has his sights set on borrowing flavours and techniques from Asian culinary traditions, too. Most sandwiches cost around $7.
The outside of the old fire marshall’s truck is wrapped in the familiar “FG” logo, and Basile has kept his signature lopsided black hat and still yells “olé” as he announces each order.
Naturally, for such a born marketer, a television show was critical to build his brand and document the process of going from pop-up vendor to food truck. The upcoming reality show based on his exploits, Rebel Without a Kitchen, is currently filming and is scheduled to air on Travel + Escape in April 2013.
Basile is known for his hard-working, one-man-show persona, but he is also quick to credit the team behind Fidel Gastro’s. He brought Dom Finelli on board to act as a business partner and steer the financial course as Fidel Gastro’s expands. For busy services, Basile brings in guest staffers to help out. He’s most effusive about crediting his girlfriend, Kyla Zanardi, for cooking, giving feedback, and acting as his filter for new ideas.
Fidel Gastro’s will still be featured as a regular pop-up vendor at the Toronto Underground Market. Basile plans to keep this part of the business because he recognizes that there are some places you can’t take a truck; especially once winter weather comes.
Priscilla will be back for lunch service this Thursday, at 510 Front Street (from noon to 3 p.m.), and Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the north side of Front, just west of Bay. Fidel Gastro’s will also be busy at TIFF doing a pop-up event at The Drake Hotel on Sept. 10, and will be one of the trucks parked near Bathurst and Bloor. For September, a pop-up event is in the works for Steam Whistle Brewing, and the truck is heading to Prince Edward County for the harvest at Sandbanks Estate Winery on Sept. 22.
Fidel Gastro’s, @fidelgastros