The Milwaukee-based food truck Streetza has been making headlines as one of the coolest food trucks on the block. They are number 76 on our list of 101 Best Food Trucks in America 2013 because this pizza truck is serving more than the standard slice. Founders Scott Baitinger and Steve Mai serve both conventional and specialty slices of pizza on hand-stretched dough. Toppings range from vegetable curry and rice to caviar. Other notable slices are the S’mores Pizza and the Corn Dog Pizza. Whether you’re looking for simple cheese or an adventurous slice, this truck has both. We caught up with the owners to talk about the business, the truck, and most importantly, the food.
When did you launch your truck?
We launched our truck on Saturday May 16, 2009. We built up some excitement before we actually launched via Twitter and Facebook by having our friends and followers involved in many aspects of Streetza, like logo selection, menu design, pricing, and items on the menu. They also helped us identify selling opportunities by pointing out festivals and locations we hadn't thought of. The buildup led to 700 people attending our launch party and trying Streetza.
What was the inspiration for going into this business?
Honestly... Red Bull and vodka. The idea may have started at about 2 in the morning after noticing that there was a lack of late-night dining options in Milwaukee's downtown area. My sister lives in LA, and we were watching the beginning of the gourmet food truck movement there since 2008. That is when we started planning Streetza. We wanted to introduce unique flavors to people, in a format they were comfortable with, pizza. Pizza is simply the vessel for some very unique recipes and ingredients. We created a Vietnamese spring roll pizza this past weekend and it is about the best thing ever…
What's the story behind the origin of your truck's name?
Streetza was the first thing that came to mind, when we thought about offering pizza by the slice on the street. So, we immediately applied for a trademark.
How did you come up with your truck's design? Is there a designer you'd like to give a shout-out to?
We designed it ourselves. Before and actually during the creation of Streetza, Scott was/is an award-winning art director working at an ad agency and is an instructor at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design. We created several design options and ultimately allowed our Twitter followers to vote and select the final design.
Does your truck have a vanity license plate? And if so, what does it say?
That's a good idea... I have to go and get one of those...
What model truck do you have?
Chevrolet P30 Stepvan.
What's your signature dish? Is it also your most popular dish?
The Slice of Milwaukee is our most popular pizza. Every year the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel asks the people of Milwaukee what their favorite pizza topping combination is. Every year so far it has been sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, and onions. Some of our more interesting slices, such as S'mores pizza, Crab Leg pizza, and Pumpkin Apple Walnut pizza, are huge hits. When we make them, people drive from as far away as 100 miles to have them.
What's the inspiration for your cuisine and recipes?
Inspiration is everywhere. We have no boundaries in regards to what we'll put on a pizza. Sometimes it turns out wonderful, sometimes, not so much. The beauty of having a truck is that you have a lot of flexibility with your menu. People expect it and look forward to it.
What's the most challenging thing about running your food truck?
The weather in Milwaukee is pretty challenging.
If you haven't already, would you ever go brick-and-mortar? And if you have, is there anything you feel gets lost in the transition?
We may. But it would be very unique. There would basically be a truck parked in a brick-and-mortar building if we made the transition.
What one piece of advice would you give someone looking to get into the food truck business?
Make sure that the market you are looking to enter has the population density to sell from a truck for a longer period of time than just over the lunch hour. The reason that trucks in larger markets do well is simply the number of sales opportunities that they have any given day.
Any new upcoming dishes planned that you can tell us about?
We make so many, it's hard to say...
Any new plans on the horizon you can share?
There may be a Streetza coming to a street near you... if you're in Bogotá, Colombia.
Lots of things happen when running a restaurant, and that probably goes double on the road. As such, be it weird, funny, good, or bad, what's one superlative or particularly outstanding moment or story that's ever occurred with your truck be it with customers, in the kitchen, or just in general?
When you are open at 3 in the morning in an area with bars, you see a lot of things. We are sworn to secrecy... but have caught some funny stuff on our cameras, which people enjoy watching on our YouTube channel.