SOUTHINGTON — A Wolcott restaurateur is readying a food truck for a seasonal spot on Meriden-Waterbury Turnpike where he’ll offer steak sandwiches, hamburgers, salads and his own relish.
Marty DiVito’s request for permission to set up on his own land prompted town officials to consider rules on food trucks.
DiVito got permission from the Zoning Board of Appeals this winter to set up his food truck for one year. Usually food trucks are looking for permission to set up at a festival or other event and board chairwoman Alicia Novi said there wasn’t really a category for what DiVito was doing.
“We haven’t seen anything like that,” she said. “It’d be great if we could get some more formalized rules around that.”2156 Meriden-Waterbury Turnpike
DiVito bought a half-acre on Meriden-Waterbury Turnpike in 2017. He considered building a restaurant but said the pandemic has changed the landscape. Customers are looking for take-out and other fast options.
“It’s the vibe right now. It’s here to stay, I really think it is,” DiVito said.
DiVito has been in the restaurant industry for 35 years, starting at his father’s restaurant in Waterbury. He opened his own restaurant, Signature, in Waterbury as well.
DiVito retired to Florida but got bored and missed his customers. While in Florida, he saw the explosion of interest in food trucks.
The restaurateur was attracted to Southington because his son lives in town as do many of his former customers.
Town residents may already be familiar with his products. Stan’s Relish, a relish line he started with a partner in 2019, that is sold at Top’s Market.
DiVito is still working on the menu but plans hot dogs, hamburgers, salads, prime rib steak sandwiches and rack of lamb chops. He’s hoping to have Marty’s food truck operating by June 1.Food truck or restaurant?
Novi said the Zoning Board of Appeals had a lengthy discussion about whether DiVito’s operation was a restaurant or a food truck. He plans to remain on his own land rather than moving to different locations.
DiVito said he’s looking for permission lasting longer than the ZBA’s one-year approval. He went to the Planning and Zoning Commission for his request.
Bob Hammersley, commission chairman, told DiVito that the commission really only had regulations that applied to brick-and-mortar businesses.
“We’ve got to look at this as a permanent structure,” Hammersley said. “We can’t look at it as food truck.”
Hammersley suggested DiVito withdraw his application while the commission considered creating rules for food trucks.Food truck subcommittee
Christina Volpe, a planning commission member, is chairwoman of the subcommittee charged with looking at food truck rules.
“I love food trucks so I was very excited to do this,” she said. “Southington is known as a restaurant district. How can we build upon that?”
Volpe plans to include other town officials and restaurant owners on the subcommittee.
Lou Perillo, the town’s economic development director, said the town’s breweries have brought in food trucks to complement their drink offerings. Restaurants, however, can see food trucks as competition.
“We want to be considerate of the brick and mortar,” Perillo said. “They obviously have a greater overhead that pays greater taxes to the town. But (food trucks) can be an entry way for a business leading into a brick and mortar.”Being a good neighbor
DiVito’s property is west of Interstate 84 on Meriden-Waterbury Turnpike. He’s a few lots from a plaza with several restaurants including Salsa’s Southwest Grill and Bar and South Town Apizza.
Having owned restaurants, DiVito said he understands the concern that a food truck will pull up nearby and sell the same food. He won’t be selling pizza or Mexican food.
“I want to stay away from that. You’ve got to respect your neighbors,” DiVito said.
He hopes the town makes clear rules on food trucks. Since he owns the lot he’s on, DiVito said he’s got “skin in the game” and is working to make the lot attractive.
“I am paying taxes. I bought the lot,” he said. “It’s not undercutting anybody.”
Gary Mayette, general manager of South Town Apizza, said he looks forward to another food option in the area.
“Absolutely I think it’ll help out,” Mayette said. “Everyone tries to help each other.”
Demand has led the restaurant to add more pizza ovens to help alleviate the wait during busy times. South Town Apizza started three years ago.
Mayette said he’s eager to stop by DiVito’s food truck for a hot dog or hamburger.