Joe Meneguzzo rolled into town earlier this year with Rocket Fine Street Food, a food truck he runs along with his wife, Patricia Natter. Before launching Rocket in 2010, he “spent the majority of my professional life ably, yet miserably, managing printing companies, all the while cooking, cooking, cooking.” The truck spent its first years in Connecticut, before news of Providence’s thriving food truck scene brought them here seeking greener pastures. When they announced their departure from Torrington in late January, it made the local newspaper. The move eastward was a bit of a homecoming for Meneguzzo, a 1988 graduate of Providence College. They’ve since become a staple on College Hill and at farmer’s markets throughout the city. “The Rocket is all about the joy that comes from kitchens,” he explains. “It’s about caring for our friends and neighbors, supporting the local economy, and having fun.” That philosophy is reflected in the menu, which offers creative takes on comfort food classics, with careful attention to quality, and whenever possible local ingredients. The offerings change almost daily, but staples include sliders with their signature Rocket Sauce (a spicy, sriracha mayo) and “Mom’s Baked Mac ‘n Cheese” with Vermont cheddar. Follow them @rockettruck on Twitter for locations and menus.
You're at the farmer's market planning to cook something for yourself. What are you looking to buy, and what are you going to do with it?
I'm looking for the freshest, most beautiful greens, like kale or mustard. Sauteed with olive oil, garlic, a pinch of red pepper and sea salt, they’ll be set beside a seared ribeye and mashed potatoes with parmigiano on a white plate – always a white plate.
I want to give credit to Market Mobile, the farm-to-biz program of Farm Fresh RI. In 2011, they facilitated the sale of over one million dollars worth of locally grown food. That is just incredible and the goals they have set for themselves are not only noble, but, frankly, necessary. They are visionaries anticipating the needs of a world to come.
Is there a dish that you'd love to serve on the truck but just haven't done it yet?
Risotto. A perfect risotto is the outcome of experienced technique, glorious ingredients, patience and devotion. The truck and the environment we find ourselves in most frequently just don’t lend themselves to dishes that require such intense and lengthy preparation. Not that I haven’t tried – and I still fantasize about cups of steaming risotto passed through the Rocket window.
You’re cooking a romantic meal at home for your wife. What’s on the menu?
Oysters on the half-shell, a salad of bitter greens, a nice bottle of red wine, homemade pasta and chocolate soufflé. Vin Santo to end.
What’s one type of restaurant that Providence currently lacks, but you believe would do well here if someone opened it?
You’re asking someone who wishes there was a television network devoted to butchery. I would love to sit in a rustic, brick, formerly industrial space with a completely open kitchen at center stage where sides of beef are being visibly and artfully carved into steaks, chops and roasts which are then prepared on iron grates set over hardwood fires. I hope to die in such a place.
You have the chance to select one ingredient and ban every other chef in Rhode Island from using it, so that you’re the only one serving it. What is it and why?
Chili peppers. The flavors that can be conjured from chilis are voodoo – part magic, part improvisation. No other ingredient impacts your senses in quite the same way. A great dish with chilis is going to tease you, make you sweat and maybe scare you a little. This all happens while a warm, broad, uncontrollable smile forms upon your face.
What do you think of the state of Providence’s food scene?
Providence is the most exciting city I have lived in, culinarily speaking. Travel + Leisure magazine recently ranked it the number three city for foodies in the United States, behind only New Orleans and San Francisco. That’s company I’d like to keep! I’m very proud to be part of the restaurant scene here and there is great camaraderie that strengthens and deepens the commitment that we all feel.
Where would you like to see it go?
One should always look to the future as demanding the experience and rigors of risk. I hope more chefs, as deranged as they may be, take the plunge and open the truck, cart or restaurant of their dreams. We’ll all be richer.