Interview of The Week: Abeetz
DAVID D’AMICO, THE FOUNDER OF ABEETZ PIZZA FOOD TRUCK, MANAGED TO START A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS WITH MINIMAL EXPERIENCE IN THE INDUSTRY. HIS FOOD TRUCK HAS BECOME ONE OF THE MOST POPULAR FOOD TRUCKS IN NYC SERVING THOUSANDS OF SATISFIED PIZZA LOVERS. THERE IS PIZZA, THERE IS GOOD PIZZA, BUT THERE IS ALSO THE BEST PIZZA – ABEETZ! DAVE SHARED MANY INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT HIS BUSINESS AS WELL AS PIZZA HIS PIZZA.
NYFTA: When did you first get an idea to open a food truck?
Dave: One day I made a choice to leave my office job because I always knew that I wanted to be in the restaurant business. Some people look up to sports players, but my role models have always been chefs. The reason I chose a food truck over a restaurant was that I really enjoy being face to face with my customers. I love being able to interact with them and watch them enjoying my food. I believe that I’m in the entertainment business just as much as in the food industry. I absolutely love what I do, and I think that shows through with the experience you get at the Abeetz truck.
NYFTA: What made you think of opening a Pizza food truck?
Dave: I decided to open a pizza truck because of my obsession with pizza. I have traveled all over the world and tasted many different kinds of pizza. I have taken things that I liked on each pizza and created what I believe is one of the best pizza available. We built the truck from an old FedEx step van. I wanted an open concept with windows that surround the truck. My idea for the truck’s image was a clean and simple look. I wanted to showcase our 3,000lb gold oven imported from Italy. Making pizza is an art, and I wanted everyone to be able to see it as if they are watching a show. I have had the truck for a year and a half now. We won “Best Food Truck in Westchester” after being in business for only 6 months.
NYFTA: Were there any significant obstacles along the way that you had to overcome?
Dave: The biggest obstacle was the time when I sold my apartment to start my food truck business and moved in with my parents. I had no idea if this was going to work out and it was horrifying. My brother and father even tried to talk me out of it. I didn’t know anybody in the business to guide me, so I had to read books on operating a food truck. I researched permits, insurance, and commissaries on my own. I was fully vested and committed to making it work. Another big obstacle was figuring out how to get a 3,000lb oven inside the truck. We initially had to add suspension. We also have to replace the brakes every year due to the extreme weight of the vehicle. Also one of the most important things is an on-call mechanic. Maintaining the truck’s mechanical state is essential. We have missed parties because of technical issues before.
NYFTA: What is your typical working day?
Dave: I usually wake up around 7:30 am and run to the food store, then prep and cook food for the day. Service is generally from 11am-3pm, then I spend time cleaning the truck. If we don’t have a private event at night, I spend afternoons answering phone calls, emails, and book parties. I can’t remember the last time I had a day “off” since I started this business. People always come to me and say “I have always wanted to have a food truck” or “I was going to open a food truck.” I think it looks fun and not much work, but it’s a hard job! There are some weeks I’m putting in 110-120 hours a week.
NYFTA: How did you put your menu together?
Dave: My menu consists of some of the classic items like Margarita, Pepperoni and a traditional cheese pie. I also came up with some fun new ideas like a bacon, egg and cheese pizza with an everything bagel crust, avocado toast pizza or our cinnamon rolls, that we make fresh from the pizza dough. I try to be creative and offer something that no one else has which is exciting for my customers. People ask me: “Why don’t you make Nutella Pizza?” It’s because everyone else does. Most of the specials that I come up with I don’t even taste because I just know they will work; for example our french onion soup pizza.
NYFTA: What do you think makes your menu items better than others?
Dave: There is an argument of which ingredient is most important for making great pizza. The sauce, cheese or the dough? Don’t get me wrong; each of these elements has to come together to make a great pizza, but the most important is undoubtedly the dough. My thin crust pizza is crunchy but not cracking. It holds up and is not floppy. A lot of people put too much cheese or sauce on their pizza, but with pizza, less is more. I am 100% Italian with relatives from Sicily and Naples. Most won’t agree, but I think New York pizza is better than pizza in Italy. I am not willing to give out my exact dough recipe, but I can share tips when making the dough. I use 00 flour and try to get fresh wet yeast rather than packaged instant yeast. The dough will rise better and become lighter and fluffier. Let it proof for 24 hours in the refrigerator. When you are ready to cook it, put the oven up to as high as it will go and use a pizza stone at home.
NYFTA: Do you have any exciting changes planned for the future?
Dave: Many people ask me if I will open a brick and mortar restaurant. My answer is – I will build another food truck first, but I’m not sure if I want an actual restaurant. I love being able to go to new places with the food truck. From warehouse weddings in Brooklyn, tent party on a desolate farm in Northern Westchester, being a part of a triple crown at the Belmont Stakes to fireworks on the fourth of July at the South St Seaport. We don’t vend on the street as many NYC trucks do. During the week, we can be found at office parks and schools for lunch and breweries or private parties at night. Saturday is the busiest day for us, and we usually book 2-4 private parties for most Saturdays in the summer. We are most known for our After Wedding parties. As guests are leaving a wedding reception, we are outside serving pizza.
Food trucks have a unique challenge when it comes to permits and licenses. Everything from food safety to where you can park is regulated at the federal, state, and county levels.