For truck owners, holidays are family affair

Food truck owners shared the traditional dishes of their cultural backgrounds.

Adzij Kovevic, the owner of Adriatic Grill at the 12th Street Food Pad, said he intends to making at least one special dish for the upcoming holiday season. | Jacob Colon TTN
Adzij Kovevic, the owner of Adriatic Grill at the 12th Street Food Pad, said he intends to making at least one special dish for the upcoming holiday season. | Jacob Colon TTN

The holidays aren’t overlooked by on-campus businesses. 

Around Thanksgiving, Adzij Kovevic from Adriatic Grill at the 12th Street Food Pad said he likes to mix traditional American holiday food with dishes from his Albanian heritage. Kovevic, who is from Montenegro, said he feels that celebrating the holiday with added Albanian flair is important in order to represent his culture.

“[We had] turkey and one of our traditional dishes as well,” Kovevic said. “It’s made with filo dough, cheeses and meat. On some holidays, we’ll have roasted lamb, too.”

From a business standpoint, Kovevic expressed interest in selling some of his traditional fare at Adriatic during the holidays.

“I think some of our heritage-fueled dishes may sell, but I need to find a cook to do it,” Kovevic said. “That’s my only problem.”

For Debbie Dasani, the owner of Samosa Deb’s, taking part in Thanksgiving and Christmas has always been a part of her family life, though she and her husband come from different backgrounds. Dasani is Indian, from Guyana and grew up Catholic, while her husband is Hindu. She said it’s important for her to serve Indian dishes alongside American holiday foods.

“I usually make a roast or chicken on Christmas or turkey on Thanksgiving, but I also make some of my specialties,” Dasani said. “Chicken tikka masala and a chickpea dish are regulars. I take a break from the samosas, though.”

Jo Ciallella, the owner of Bagel Hut on Liacouras Walk, said her business doesn’t have the means to offer holiday food, though she wishes it did. Her Italian heritage calls for a “dinner of seven fishes,” including shrimp, cod and crab cakes. Christmas dinner consists of various Italian staples – ravioli, chicken marsala and meatballs, among others. But, she added, being with family and friends is what’s most important.

“During the holidays I like to bake with my daughters using my mom’s recipes, visit Center City to take in the holiday sights, decorate my home with my family and visit family and friends,” Ciallella said. “And, of course, preparing and cooking Christmas dinner for our 22 guests.”

Ciallella said she believes that if the Bagel Hut had adequate space and equipment to cook and sell Italian food during holidays, it would be well-received by customers.

On holidays, Herbert Mena doesn’t bring specialty foods to his truck, but he does take some of his business’ menu home. The owner of Temple’s Best Authentic Mexican on Norris Street, Mena said he believes the holidays are reserved for gatherings and family.

“We definitely go all out on Christmas and celebrate big – pork, prime rib, special dishes like that,” Mena said. “We make some of the things that are on the truck’s menu for family dinners, but holidays are important, so we like to do more than usual.”

The Chinese New Year is important to Juno Park, the owner of Burger and Cheese Busz, as well as Sushi Busz. Park said he enjoys carrying out traditions that have been in his family for a long while.

“On Chinese New Year’s Day, Korean people usually eat rice cake soup,” Park said. “It’s made with round rice cake in fish broth and has egg and green onion as topping.”

On Chinese New Year, customs vary. It is traditional for families to “cleanse” their homes by sweeping away bad fortune and making room for good luck to come. Decorations with themes of good fortune, happiness and wealth are put up around the house, along with many other activities. In Park’s family, it is common to wish good fortune upon others.

“Koreans usually bow to their elders and wish them a long and healthy life on New Year’s Day,” Park said. “After that, the elders will usually give their children or grandchildren an envelope with money inside, ranging from $10 to $100.”

As for selling the foods he and his family have on holidays, Park said he has not considered it due to the fact that neither of his trucks serve strictly Korean fare.

“I think it would be successful in a Korean restaurant or a Korean food truck, but it is probably too foreign for any American to find it interesting,” Park said.

Although many food truck owners don’t sell the food they usually make on holidays at their respective establishments, they all said they take pride in what they serve to their families and friends during the holiday season.

Ariane Pepsin can be reached at 

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