The coolest place to have lunch in Torrington, CT, is any parking lot where you see the gleaming white Rocket Fine Street Food Truck. Owner-cooks Joseph Meneguzzo and Patricia Natter-Meneguzzo are not only dishing up superb green chile burgers, grilled cheese sandwiches and Belgian-style frites, they are bring a side order of hipster cred to the shaggy mill town that is the geographic and cultural heart of Litchfield County. “We think Torrington’s best days are ahead of it,” says Joseph. “We hope Rocket Fine Street Food helps get it there.”
The immaculate white food truck is a harbinger of hope. Parked five days a week outside the Oddo Print Shop in downtown Torrington, CT—the presumptive cultural capital of Litchfield County—Rocket Fine Street Foodgives the aging mill town some hipster cred now that food trucks are all the rage in the trendiest Zip Codes. Since late last summer, Joseph Meneguzzo and Patricia Natter-Meneguzzo have been serving up expertly made grilled cheese sandwiches, burgers, Belgian style frites, sliders and beignets made from natural and (when possible) local ingredients.
The couple designed a menu that would not compete with Torrington’s abundant pizza-and-grinder shops, offering a healthy alternative to chain fast food without being pretentious or expensive. “We knew our menu had to be approachable and affordable,” says Joseph. A “straight-up burger” with a slice of onion and organic ketchup served on a Collinsville Baking Company roll is $7, and the signature Green Chile cheeseburger is $8.50. The Nashville-style fried chicken sandwich is $4.75. A grilled cheese sandwich (right) is $4.75 and $6 with nitrite-free hickory smoked bacon. Their menu promises “no trans fats, no high-fructose conr syrup, no hormones, no antiobiotics.” In the summer, when they shop at the farmers’ market, they offer fresh salads, too. “Some people think we’re expensive but we explain that we use the best ingredients possible,” says Patricia. “One of the best things about a food truck is that you get to interact with your customers all the time.”
Patricia and Joseph, who grew up in Torrington, used to live in Miami. “Miami is the perfect place on paper,” he says. “But there’s no sense of community. It’s overrun by tourists.” They returned to New England with the idea of getting into the food business because it’s people-oriented. When they started hearing about the food-truck phenomenon, they realized the concept was not only less of a financial gamble than their idea of opening a restaurant but also something that might have a major impact in a place like Torrington, which Joseph calls “a jewel in the rough.” He found his truck on Craig’s List. “It was Uncle Frank’s Pizza Truck from Lowell, Massachusetts,” he says. “He’d put a lot of money into it. It has a pizza oven, two deep fryers, a flat top grill, refrigerators and a sandwich station. It was too good to pass up.”
The couple, who are part of a group called the Mill Town Collective, which is “dedicated to changing perceptions and restoring Torrington as Litchfield County’s premiere manufacturer of awesome,” are looking forward to the warm weather when running a food truck is easier because people don’t mind waiting on line outside for lunch. “We do a great business at the Torrington’s Farmers Market and we’re excited about returning to the Main Street Marketplace street fairs on Thursday nights in the summer,” says Patricia.
“We don’t expect Torrington to become something it’s not,” says Joseph. “What it wants to be is a funky blue collar town. We think Torrington’s best days are ahead of it. We hope Rocket Fine Street Food helps get it there.”
Rocket Fine Street Food
142 East Main Street (Oddo’s parking lot), Torrington; 860.689.5585
Tuesday – Saturday 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.