After working together in the restaurant industry for 17 years as servers, managers, and kitchen staff, three colleagues plan to start their own food business this spring.
But when the opening day of March arrives for their Pizzeria Vesuvio food truck, partners are awakened to news of the citywide shutdown of COVID-19.
“The day we set up the computer, finish designing our menu with the food truck ready for business is the first day the city closes [due] contracted the corona virus, “said one of the owners Esteban Alvayero.
The new entrepreneur, previously hired by Southtown Pizzeria, stopped their opening while friends and colleagues gave warning advice.
“This is when you should run away,” a friend advised Alvayero.
“But he was wrong,” said Alvayero. “It’s all about faith. If you truly believe in your diet and the mission behind what you do, then there is no way to fail. ”
Sticking to that mantra gives all three partners the assurance they need to stick to their dreams and continue with their unfolding.
‘Everything we do is for our guests’
The Vesuvio doesn’t fit the traditional take-and-go food truck model. Parked at 110 South Alamo St., the truck is in the driveway of King William’s historic home. Chef, artist and co-owner Ana Mercedes Linares plans to use the house as her painting gallery and community art class venue.
The crew serves scratch-off pizza, Italian dishes and desserts amid a backdrop of dimly lit patio seating.
“It’s a fine gourmet dish without porcelain,” said Alvayero.
The sound of jazz, erupting wine corks, and water dripping from a nearby fountain invite guests to come and stay for a while, as if the setting was their own home. Alvayero wanders among the tables, entertaining guests and calling passersby from the sidewalk for a complimentary glass of wine.
“When you serve someone food, they become part of your family,” he said.
Born in San Salvador, El Salvador, Alvayero’s best childhood memories lie around the kitchen table. His father, who inspired many Italian restaurant recipes, died two months ago of COVID-19.
“My father always told me not to count my age by years, but by friends and family in my life,” said Alvayero. “That’s why we are here. Everything we do is for our guests. ”
‘Crazy enough’ to open it
As the pandemic’s closure dragged on, co-workers showered Alvayero and his associates with well-meaning advice.
“It’s like watching a scary scene in a film when the viewer knows that there is danger in one direction, but the character walks straight into the threat,” an acquaintance in question advised Alvayero about his opening plans.
“Finally, I think everyone gets to the point of getting bored staying at home,” said Anthony Rodriguez, the truck’s third partner. “Meanwhile, we also hit the point of getting tired of following our idea.”
Rodriguez oversees the business side of Vesuvio, but he can often be seen rolling the dough mid-shift to keep up with the busyness. He said the decision to open during the pandemic set expectations low from the start.
“We said, at a minimum, we needed to defend this, and we did,” said Rodriguez. “Now we are in a place where we can grow and slowly build to meet the market potential.”
The mobile restaurant moved from a gas station to a food truck center before finding its current location. After serving the King William community for nearly a decade at Southtown Pizzeria, partners are determined to offer an art component to their business that is suited to the environment.
‘Let the dog barking’
Mercedes Linares – who often makes homemade desserts, dressings and sauces on the spot – says opening the truck feels akin to overcoming the challenges she faces as an artist.
During high school classes in his native El Salvador, Mercedes Linares painted a landscape from Don Quixote, the famous Spanish novel by Miguel de Cervantes. When he chose to paint the knight’s horse blue instead of its natural color, his instructor criticized him for thinking too far out of the ordinary.
“Let the dog bark, Sancho, that is a sign that we are moving forward,” Don Quixote said in the book. Those words reminded Mercedes Linares that the best ideas are often met with exhausting empty words.
“Sometimes when people doubt you it is confirmation that you are doing the right thing,” he said.
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