Del Popolo, a custom-mobile-pizzeria-on-wheels, is due to roll out next month from self-proclaimed “dough guy” Jon Darsky. The name Del Popolo means 'of the people' and represents the "simple and egalitarian nature of pizza." Darsky is most recently known to pizza fans for his gently blistered, thin-crust, award-winning pizzas from flour + water. He is the primary designer of this new Bay Area mobile pizzeria, which started as a transatlantic shipping container and will be morphed into a pizza kitchen on wheels, custom-tricked out in ways that are different from other food trucks. He employed a local designer to translate his ideas and “make the concept real on the computer,” as well as produce the detailed drawings and plans required to actually build it. Mclellan Industries, based in Hanford, California, handled the fabrication and production. Darsky said of his approach, “Most food trucks start from the same place, with a repurposed step van, and incorporate similar modifications, designs and equipment. I started with the idea that I wanted to use an unconventional appliance in a custom format that would expand the idea of what mobile food can be.”
Darsky hails from New York and currently lives in Noe Valley. He has worked locally at Pizzaiolo, Pizzeria Delfina and flour + water, after an initial career as a pro baseball scout. He is newly married and just back from his honeymoon.
How did you and your spouse Sara meet?
In late summer 2004, we were set up and went on a blind date at a bar in Manhattan. In 2007, she got a job with YouTube in entertainment marketing, and we moved from Brooklyn to San Francisco.
Do you have any children?
We have a six-year old named Rocco. He's a Jack Russell terrier.
Tell us about getting married.
We ran out of red wine half through the night, and were forced to hit Safeway in Pope Valley (Napa Valley) for some Woodbridge. Humphry Slocombe made us a custom flavor of sorbet -- peach moscato -- and Anastasia at Sweet Revolution made a small box of caramels for each guest.
How was the honeymoon?
We went to Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. In Bangkok's Chinatown, off the back of a pickup truck, we shared a plate of durian and sticky rice with a little condensed milk. On its’ own durian is difficult. It smells bad and is somewhere between savory and sweet. But with the sticky rice and the sweet condensed milk, it's delicious. We got a great photo of the woman preparing food in the truck.
In Siem reap, I had an eggplant, pork and fermented soybean dish that was awesome. It was part of a $17 tasting menu that culminated with a black sticky rice creme brûlée.
In Hanoi, my two favorites were the pho I ate in the morning. It was the best food I've ever experienced on a stool a foot off the ground; invigorating and super flavorful. I also had fried fish with turmeric, dill, chili and rice noodles, and a papaya salad with air-dried beef.
How are things going with Del Popolo?
Swell. The project was born in June of 2010, a few months after my departure from flour + water. It's closer to launching now than ever before.
Did you have to get any sort of certification or training to operate your mobile?
There’s no certification and no training. Only a commercial drivers license, which requires that you pass the CDL test. It’s not that easy. I spent an entire day in Fresno. In addition to the road test, there's a test of your familiarity with the air brake system. I failed it the first time….
How did you begin working with Mclellan Industries?
I found them online. When I contacted them initially, business was slow and they were receptive. They're not in the food truck business, but they had the necessary expertise, facilities and tools to carry out the project.
What are your favorite Bay Area spots to shop for food?
I like to buy Twizzlers at Office Max on Harrison Street. They're always fresh. I feel sick, stupid and guilty afterwards, but the first ten are really good. Also, Thai eggplant, tamarind, and sweet basil from the Battambang market on Eddy Street. It's a Thai market owned by a Cambodian woman.
I also like Oscar's Deli on Cesar Chavez, for good, inexpensive falafel.
Where is your favorite date-night spot?
La Ciccia, where I like to order the spaghetti with bottarga. I go there for the spaghetti and the hospitality.
If you had to pick one pizza as your favorite, which one would it be?
In S.F., Una Pizza Napoletana.
In L.A., my brother-in-law makes delicious pizza at Sotto. Both are thoughtful in terms of process, ingredients and the tools they use. There is no randomness to what they do, and it is born out in the end product. Similarly, my style is built around asking as many questions as possible in order to really understand what I am doing.
What is your favorite meal to have with your family?
Beans. I like to make beans, with almost any kind from Rancho Gordo. It’s hands-down my favorite thing to make… add some herbs and some sherry vinegar.
What will you do for Valentine’s Day?
We're going to the SF ballet to see Chroma.