Fabio and Santiago Marensaro remember the time a few years back, as Salt Lake City was hosting the World Archery Cup, when they found themselves feeding the entire Italian archery team at their food truck, Umani Pizza.
“They were like, ‘Hey! This is the Roman style,” Fabio Marensaro said. “And I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s exactly the style we’re trying to do.’”
Italians instantly recognize the rectangular, thick-crust pizza, which has a more crumbly texture than the round, Neapolitan-style pizzas most Utahns know. Marensaro said that since 2006, when he and his brother launched Umani, it’s been a process to teach Americans that pizzas don’t have to be circular, and that crusts don’t have to be thin and chewy.
Now, with food trucks serving every type of cuisine from street curbs, suburban parks and strip mall parking lots, people are open to different foods — even rectangular pizzas.
Utahns will get a chance to sample a couple of dozen examples of street cuisine on Saturday, July 16, from 4 to 10 p.m., at Salt Lake City’s Liberty Park. That’s when the Food Truck Face Off happens. The annual event benefits nonprofit groups, which this year are Fourth Street Clinic, The Children’s Center Utah, and Utah Community Action.
The Utah Food Truck League launched the first Face Off in 2015 with just eight trucks, and it’s since grown into a mini-festival. This year, the beer garden will serve brews from Uinta and Epic, and there’s an eclectic lineup of live music: Provo’s English Budgies (pop), Vocal Reasoning (reggae), First Daze (indie rock) and Vann Moon (rock).
The Marensaros, who have participated in past Face Offs, will bring their very unique truck, which is built from a shipping container and has a built-in masonry pizza oven that they imported from Italy.
Fabio Marensaro said that the most popular pizzas are the Margarita (tomatoes, mozzarella and pesto made from scratch), and the Criolla (beef brisket, roasted red peppers and chimichurri). The Amber, which is based on a South African-style pizza, uses a white sauce with bacon, Roquefort cheese and cranberries — and it’s a recipe that’s frequently requested when they cater weddings.
Umani also serves weekly specials, and always has vegan and gluten-free options. Marsenaro said that gluten-free crusts can be challenging, but he’s happy with the texture they’ve managed to achieve. “It’s crispy, and it has a lot of flavor — we use cauliflower,” he said.
Though having an oven on board can get hot during the summer — with fans, the temperature drops from 110 degrees to 90 degrees — Marsenaro said they’re just used to it. “The trucks are black, and when we’re right in the sun, that’s when it gets challenging,” he laughed. “But we make it work.”
Here is the tentative list of this year’s participating trucks — though the list is subject to change:
• Kona Ice
• Thai Rex