SOUTHINGTON — Those looking for a bite of the summer experience can now get hot dogs, hamburgers and fried dough out of a newly opened food truck.
"I'm excited. It was a process, you know, the (town) of Southington helped me out. It was new to all of us and everybody was great," said Marty DiVito, owner of Marty’s food truck.
DiVito set the truck up on a plot of land he owns along Meriden-Waterbury Turnpike near Interstate 84. He opened June 25 and expects to close in November. The food truck operates from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., except on Mondays.
He has a long history in the restaurant business, having started out running the Turf Restaurant in Waterbury with his dad for 27 years. He aims to bring the same focus on quality to his food truck and believes people are starting to view mobile eateries differently.
"It's an art, my food speaks for who I am and I take pride in everything I do and I always like to put a twist on things ... and it's in my blood. My family's owned restaurants for — God my father started in the 60's. Our whole family being brought up in it, it's just part of us," he said.Novel dining option requires special approval from town
Since the town lacks formal regulations for food trucks operating from one location for prolonged periods, DiVito had to go before the Zoning Board of Appeals to find a compromise between the town’s zoning rules and the business he wanted to establish. Much of the concern centered around protecting brick-and-mortar restaurants, he said.
DiVito is sympathetic to those concerns. He does not plan to park overnight.
"If somebody's going to park there and just leave it there and ... building a deck around it. I mean, that isn't fair to the restaurant owners and I wouldn't want that done to me,” DiVito said.
Zoning Board of Appeals Chairperson Alicia Novi said DiVito’s request fell outside the usual applications the town receives for food trucks seeking a permit since it is on land he owns and he plans to stay open for around half the year.
“There was quite a few requirements that we put on it,” she said. The central requirement was that DiVito cannot leave the food truck on the property overnight without it being assessed and taxed in the same manner as a building.
“He owns that land so for him he can do that as long as he does not leave his cart or his truck there at night because at that point it became more a question of is it a building,” she said.
Novi stressed that the ZBA is not a precedent setting body, adding it’s up to the Planning and Zoning Commission to create a broader set of regulations for food trucks. A subcommittee has been created by the PZC to explore the topic, however it has yet to meet.
“We’re very excited to have more regulations and more guidance for food trucks because we are getting more requests,” Novi said.
Economic Development Coordinator Louis Perillo said he feels the process for finding an amicable solution for a business owner wanting to bring a new idea to town worked well in this case.
“I think the town board did very well facilitating his request. It's not an easy request, something subject to review. Obviously the popularity of food trucks has been surging as of late, but the folks that have an investment in the brick and mortar and restaurants have certain concerns about proximity and what not,” he said.
Perillo said he believes there’s room for food trucks to fit into the local economy without harming other businesses. He noted that food trucks played an important part in keeping breweries and bars open by providing the food necessary for them to comply with public health requirements during the pandemic.