The food cart pod on 11th and Duane streets has added some soul, with wood-fired pizza on the way.
Jordan Wilson is serving up all the soul food standards — chicken and waffle sandwiches, po’boys, shrimp and grits and other Southern staples — out of his black cart wedged on 11th Street between Roll & Bowl and Sasquatch Sandwich.
Wilson, originally from Seattle, worked as a chef around Portland before recently relocating to Manzanita with his fiancé, a Cannon Beach native. Over the summer, he built out the inside of his food cart, opening last week.
His background in Portland includes stints at Ex Novo Brewing and the 100-plus taproom Henry’s 12th Street Tavern on Burnside Street.
“The tough part about being a chef is you’re generally making someone else’s business better,” Wilson said. “At this point in my life, I just wanted to create my own business. I’m good at what I do, and I just wanted to be in business for myself, and cook food that I really like and that I agree with, nonstop. And I make the decisions.”
Around the corner from Wilson on Duane Street, next to vegan cart Good Bowl, Riccardo Pizzuti is assembling the trailer for the Calabrese-style Pizzuti’s Woodfired Pizzeria, with a planned opening later this month.
Before slinging slices, Pizzuti was a potter and sculptor who also did drywall and painting to make ends meet.
“Doing that burned me out, so I just stayed with the drywall and painting, because that’s where the money was at,” he said.
Pizzuti, who traces his family’s lineage to southern Italy, decided several years ago to parlay his family’s culinary heritage with his experience in kilns, and began making wood-fired pizzas. He started out delivering to Waltz Brewing in Forest Grove before the owner sold him his trailer.
Inside, Pizzuti has installed a glass-melting oven that fires up to 2,600 degrees, out of which he turns out 10-, 14- and 16-inch, Neapolitan-style pizzas on thin sourdough crust with a spicy Calabrian tomato sauce. He sources meats and cheeses from Italy and incorporates local seafood for such pies as crab, shrimp and anchovies. In the warmer months, he’ll grow his own basil and oregano.
Pizzuti plans to sell whole pizzas and slices out of a heat rack in front, along with baguettes, Italian bread and the occasional dessert, with hopes of an alcohol license for beer and wine.
Astoria, where Pizzuti has friends who urged him to make the move, is his retirement plan.
“I’m getting older, so now’s the time to do it,” he said. “I think I’ve got a product that will afford me the ability to stick around.”
The Art Garden at 11th and Duane streets now numbers five carts. Property owner Michael Bruhn said he plans to stop there. In the near future, he plans a food court, and possibly occasional live music.
Bruhn has been pleased with how quickly and organically the city’s largest food cart pod has grown. He already has another three cart owners hoping to get in.
“There’s not a lot of places that let trailers in,” he said. “I’d like to find another place, but parking lots are in high demand.”