Alex Grisanti is spinning his wheels - in a good way.
The former chef of Elfo’s and his wife, Kim, are now operating a food truck - Grisanti’s 9 Dough 1 - during the week.
Or, as Alex says, “Literally cooking on the fly.”
He decided to open a food truck about a year and a half ago. “We closed Elfo’s down. I kept looking for something to do.”
Son of the late restaurateur Ronnie Grisanti, Alex thought about running another restaurant or maybe taking a food and beverage director job, but nothing sounded appealing. “A couple of my buddies who were executive chefs and owned their own place started a food truck business. They said, ‘You need to get in the food truck business with us.’”
He liked the idea. “I can work by myself. I don’t have to worry about rent and employees and things like that. You work hard for a couple of hours and pack up and take your restaurant home with you.”
So, Alex got a food truck. “I outfitted it with my brick pizza oven.”
He’s making flatbread pizzas, Italian salad, cannellonis and panna cottas. “I’m 100 percent Italy. There’s not another truck out on the street doing what Kim and I are doing with brick oven pizzas. The most popular is lobster pizza with butter garlic sauce, roasted tomatoes and onions, fresh lobster knuckle and claw meat. Then I have a chipotle aioli sauce over the top of it.”
The veggie pizza with squash, zucchini, shiitake mushrooms, goat cheese, onion and fresh basil is another popular item, Alex says.
“What makes mine gourmet is I hand-do all my dough, hand-do all my sauces. I use only the freshest ingredients.”
He’s going to change the pizzas seasonally. “Doing pastas and stuff on the truck is too hard. Down the road I might do something.”
Alex hired graffiti artist Toonky Barry to paint the truck. “My truck is crazy. The whole thing has graffiti all over it.”
Usually, Alex and Kim are the only two operating the truck. “She takes the orders and the money and I make the pizzas and then put them in the oven.”
Their son, Elfo Grisanti, is in the truck on occasion. “Elfo works with me when he doesn’t have to work at The Kitchen.”
Elfo is the fifth generation Grisanti to work at a restaurant. His great-great-grandfather, Willie Grisanti, owned the old Grisanti’s restaurant on 552 Main Street.
“I’m the only one crazy enough to have a food truck.”
Does Alex miss a brick and mortar restaurant? “I’m always going to miss it. It’s in my blood. That’s what I do. All I know is cooking and taking care of Memphians. And if I can’t do it in brick and mortar, I’ll pull my truck to them.”