Words by Rob Cockcroft Photography by Mads Norgaard
Popularised by the likes of taco trucks and the upmarket grab ’n go fare from the streets of New York, food trucks have become the gastronomic symbol of pop culture. They’re cheaper to set up than restaurants, and are the greener option. There are even reality-TV shows based on food trucks owned by celeb-chefs. South Africa has followed suit with this trend, with its own offering to the street food world – in the form of Limoncello. Locally it’s the first food truck of its kind, a fully-equipped restaurant on four wheels, and it’s setting the Twitterverse ablaze.
Limoncello is owned by Luca Castiglione, a third generation chef from Napoli, who introduced the gourmet food truck experience to the land of Mzansi in March 2012. Seeking a new challenge after running his family-owned restaurant in Gardens, Limoncello Ristorante, for 12 years, he decided to pack up his belongings and take his business to the streets, after seeing the enormous impact food trucks have made in similarly cosmopolitan cities around the world.
He laid his hands on a classic 1978 Ford Motor Home truck which he found on Gumtree, and had it retrofitted with a complete restaurant kitchen which can cater for up to an astonishing 200 people. For the wooden branding to go with the truck’s retro exterior, he approached the people of the Cape Town-based creative agency GOOD DESIGN.
Castiglione prepares all his food fresh; he bakes paninis in the truck’s oven, and collects the catch of the day at the local fish market, which determines his menu for the day. He also serves other types of southern Italian food, like calzone, risottos, pizzas and spaghettis from his truck.
Cape Town has proven to be a great starting point for the business as there is a thriving foodie culture and an adventurous spirit when it comes to tasting the culinary diversity this melting pot city has to offer.
“Capetonians eat out a lot, and they are spoilt for choice – but they are always looking for new spots and culinary adventures,” he says. “We already have over 2800 followers on Twitter, and we only started a year ago. I think that demonstrates the reaction of the public to our concept.”
Castiglione believes that trading from different locations every day as opposed to being confined to the bricks and mortar of his previous restaurant location has been the best lifestyle choice possible. A quick glance at Limoncello’s Twitter page will tell you why.
“In Wellington for a wedding looking forward to it see you all on the road next week #ciao,” he tweeted recently. “Menu del giorno, @Oudekraal weather looking good for a meal on the rocks trading from 12 to sunset” reads another update announcing their main trading spot amongst the curio sellers on the seaside road near Oudekraal just outside Camps Bay. They can also be found trading weekly from Harrington Street in the bustling CBD.
No matter where Castiglione is, his food is always freshly prepared, from paninis baked that morning or fish caught that day.
Although the novelty of being the first food truck in the land has meant Limoncello has gained much popularity in a short span of time, pioneering this type of street commerce has not come without its own set of challenges. Without the right procedures in place, the City of Cape Town has provided street traders with limited space to operate. Castiglione is working to change this by rallying the troops. He has registered the trademark Cape Town Food Trucks in hopes of expanding and diversifying the local food truck scene. Uniting a fleet of trucks under one banner will hopefully help the council see the potentially positive effects street trading has on the economy and granting the trucks the liberty to move around more freely in the city could mean better quality foods with a creative touch being brought straight to the consumer.
This article first appeared in Traffic Magazine.