Vincent’s New York wooden hearth pizza truck makes its debut in East Setauket
This season of restaurant tragedy, Vincent’s New York Wood-Fired Pizza is a rare success story. The chill of winter doesn’t keep the crowd away from this trailer in the Long Island Health & Racquet parking lot. When the weather is particularly bad, people wait in their cars until they hear their names shout over the loudspeaker to pick up their cakes.
In March, as pandemic regulations fell on Long Island, Vincent DeMarzo found himself in a worst-case restaurant scenario: his health food store Juiced Up was in the World Gym (now Long Island Health & Racquet), which was closed until September. He continued to produce takeaway meals for their customers throughout the spring and summer as well as local frontline workers and the homeless, but he knew the business couldn’t keep him going for long.
And so Vincent returned to his first love: pizza. He started working for Rocco in St. James in 2003 when he was 14 years old. At first he was responsible for reheating and serving slices at the counter, but he soon realized that “the guy who makes the pizza always makes more money.” “Vincent came to work on his day off to learn how to how to make pizza, and he never looked back. He was at Rocco’s, first in St. James and then in Patchogue until he made plans to open Juiced Up in 2018.
Vincent looked for a pandemic-proof concept and pulled the trigger on a long-awaited dream of owning a pizza truck. He found a 22-foot grocery trailer in Georgia, bought a wood-burning stove in California and had it shipped and hooked up there. “We basically did this thing through FaceTime,” he said.
During the construction of the trailer, the master had to perfect a new dough that works with the wood-fired oven, which has a higher water content and a 48-hour fermentation process that gives it a better taste and texture. Thankfully, “I had plenty of free time to watch YouTube videos and practice during the pandemic.”
In August the trailer was delivered and towed by Vincent to a rest stop along Route 347 in East Setauket. At first there were only a few customers and a few cakes. It didn’t take long for him to develop a following. “We were so busy,” he recalled, “I had to recruit my wife. She had done the register and one day she said, ‘What can I do to help you?’ I said, “Bring your bum over here and I’ll show you how to make pizza.” She’s a marine biologist, but now she works by my side every hour until we’re done for the day. I’m blessed to have her. “
The location on 347 “was great for advertising,” he said, “but it was awful for parking – just a gravel road that got muddy in the rain. People started rubberizing on 347, there were a couple of bumper taps. I did not do it.” I want to see my pizza cause an accident. “
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So in November he took the trailer to the gym parking lot on Mark Tree Road, where his juice bar was. There were lots of parking spaces and lots of lights even at night. What didn’t exist in the first few weeks was business. “From a freeway to a parking lot on a side street – people had no idea where we were going,” Vincent said. But he kept posting on Facebook and Instagram, asking customers to do the same. And then: “It was like someone flicked a switch and we were bullied again.”
Vincent’s menu includes 10 specialties (14 to 20 US dollars) such as the restrained “Queens” cake (with mashed tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil), the sumptuous “Brooklyn” (crumbled sausage, broccoli raven, hot cherry peppers, fresh mozzarella and red wine sauce), the “Suffolk” (blue cheese, buffalo-chicken nibbles and mozzarella), the further out Nassau (chicken nibbles in homemade barbecue sauce with melted cheddar and jack cheese and pickled red Onions)) and the only one on Long Island “LIBEC” that is correct, a bacon, egg and cheese pizza with a bagel crust.
You can also get a plain cheese or margherita topped with your choice, as well as Caesar salad and pasta e fagioli.
The schedule for each week will be posted on Vincent’s on Facebook and Instagram on Monday. You can also find daily specials and video demos there.
Vincent’s New York Wood-Fired Pizza is located at 384 Mark Tree Rd., East Setauket, 631-991-5766, vincentspizzatrailer.com
Erica Marcus, a passionate but skeptical omnivore, has been reporting and talking about the Long Island food scene since 1998.