There are more than 60 food trucks in Raleigh spinning their wheels daily each with their own signature food style—from Creole cooking to cupcakes, barbeque to beignets. And each truck’s identity is literally driven by the person inside. Who are they and what’s their story? We find out.
Stephanie Ruggiro, 27, had always dreamed of working in the advertising industry in New York City. After graduating from UNC-Wilmington, she landed a job—and hated it.
“I soon realized that a 9-to-5 desk job was not for me,” says Ruggiro. “After almost a year, I got laid-off, and it was the best thing that could have happened.”
After moving back to North Carolina, she began researching the food truck industry and came across an idea that would take her back to her roots. Ruggiro’s parents had owned a baked potato business up north when they first married, selling food at a local flea market.
“My parents both helped me get the truck started. A lot of the recipes we use on the truck came from my mom,” says Ruggiro, who started her potato truck in 2014. “She keeps me sane on this crazy truck; my twin brother also helps.”
But there’s a silver lining to her brief stint in advertising. Ruggiro realizes the importance of good photos and promotion through social media to ensure the success of her business.
“When we first started, we thought we were going to do this part-time,” says co-owner Hannia Jara, a former teacher, who came to the U.S. in 2001 through a cultural exchange program. Her husband, Pedro Rodriguez, a marketing specialist, came in 1983 to attend college.
“We both ended up jumping into this adventure full time as we encountered amazing feedback,” says Jara. “We are bringing our Venezuelan and Costa Rican culture to our food and trying to make a difference by offering mostly organic, vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free menu.”
Arepa specializes in traditional handmade South American cornmeal patties that hold everything from chicken salad to “La Surena,” BBQ and pico de gallo. The cuisine is catching on, though Jara says people were a little hesitant to try the food at first.
The couple have three kids, a blended family, and the youngest son, Marcel, 19, and his girlfriend often help with the business. “Although they are full time students, they have become pretty much our right hand,” adds Jara.
Baton Rouge Cuisine
For nine years Anthony Greenup, 36, played basketball with the Harlem Globetrotters. Now, instead of touring with the team, he tours Raleigh in his Cajun-inspired food truck.
“With the team, I was away from home about ten months out of the year,” says Greenup. “I love doing what I do on the food truck. I meet nice people, and I can make my own hours.”
Greenup moved to Raleigh from Baton Rouge to attend Shaw University. After graduation, he played for the Charlotte Bobcats before signing with the Globetrotters.
“After college, I just stayed here; I wasn’t thinking about going home,” he says.
But he’s brought a bit of home to Raleigh. He serves family recipes like Shrimp Creole and Jambalaya through his mobile eatery. The player formerly known as “Airport” because of the way he jumped, now juggles the truck and his family, wife LesLee and two kids, ages 5 and 1.
Mr. A’s Beignets
For 30 years, Arlton Cangelosi delivered the mail. When it was time to retire, he thought about doing something he’d been good at as a teenager—making beignets, a New Orleans fried dough specialty. Cangelosi launched Mr. A’s Beignets in December 2015 just a month after he retired.
“I could have done other things, but I thought that not too many people have made beignets successfully and I could,” he says.
Family and friends help him run the truck four days a week. And it was his daughter who advised him on the truck’s design with the bright yellow chef hats.
“She said, ‘Make your food truck fun!’ She also told me to do black shirts and to embrace the powdered sugar that gets everywhere,” he says.
Not everyone knows what a beignet is, and that’s part of the fun.
“Watching someone eat their first beignet is the highlight of my day,” says Cangelosi, who admits to eating three a day. “It makes what I do worth it.”