Talking Pitas with Julie Dallo
1. Tell us about Pita Boss
Being that we are the Pita Boss, of course everything we serve is on pita bread. We purchase our pita bread from a local company here in Jacksonville, so it’s baked fresh daily! We wanted to have something for everyone so we put together a diverse menu that ranges from Middle Eastern to Italian to the American South - all wrapped up tight in a pita and grilled on our panini press.
2. What's special about your pitas and dips?
Our food is special because we truly cook it with love. We are a husband and wife team, just recently married this past December, and take ultimate pride in our business. Just about everything we serve is made from scratch, including all of our sauces and marinades. We hand roll meatballs, slow cook pulled pork for 8+ hours, marinate our shawarma for a minimum of 12 hours, and even make our own hummus and pita chips! Our pita bread is baked fresh daily here in Jacksonville, at Hala Cafe & Bakery, a locally owned business. Be careful, our food is addictive! Typically, we both make a wrap to take home with us after taking the truck out. Everything is so good it is dang near impossible to pass up!
3. When did you open?
January 1st, 2015 was our first day. We have been working on opening our business for over a year and a half and luckily were able to launch the beginning of this year.
4. Can you tell us about some of your items?
From the beginning, we knew we wanted to sell shawarmas. My husband Jason is Arabic and introduced me to the shawarma when we first started dating several years ago. The shawarma was one of his favorite things to eat and quickly became mine as well. Few places offer a shawarma so we decided to bring the unique flavors to the public by serving it on our truck. The Pablo Escobar is our signature shawarma and typically outsells all the other wraps we offer by double. We make the Pablo Escobar with either marinated ribeye steak or chicken, which we toss with sautéed onions and peppers, then top with cucumber salsa, hummus and tahini sauce. We make our hummus and tahini ourselves - hummus from ground chick peas and tahini from ground sesame seeds mixed with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic.
Besides the Pablo Escobar we have 3 other wraps that are part of our core menu - the Al Capone (pulled pork and pineapple coleslaw), the Lucky Luciano (meatball and mozzarella), and the Bonnie Parker (homemade spinach dip and deli sliced turkey all topped with lettuce, tomato, and onion). We enjoy adding new wraps to the menu and definitely plan to continue to add new items to keep things fresh and new. We just added the gyro, and plan on adding Lebanese kabobs as soon as next week!
The Pablo Escobar is my personal favorite, with the Al Capone a close second. Jason has actually fallen in love with the Lucky Luciano. The Bonnie Parker is our sleeper wrap. Any time we have a family member or friend try this wrap they're always pleasantly pleased with how delicious it is and often ask for it repeatedly.
5. How did you come up with your menu items?
We really wanted to have something for everyone, from the pickiest eater to the most adventurous. We both know several picky eaters and these picky eaters always love meatball subs, so we knew this was a delicious and flavorful wrap that would appeal to the less adventurous without being boring. An Egyptian chef taught us his personal recipe for the shawarma - visit Cafe Karibo in Fernandina Beach to try out some of his other creations! Our pulled pork wrap, the Al Capone, is something we have made at home and always loved. I am obsessed with our spinach dip and came up with the Bonnie Parker on a whim - it turned out awesome! We are both home cooks and love experimenting with food and trying new recipes. Our menu is basically a mix of a few of our favorite things.
6. How did you come up with the names for your pitas?
While brainstorming a few ideas, Jason threw out naming our wraps after mob bosses. After playing around with a few names we quickly decided to go with it. We thought it was fun and people seem to love it as well. Both Jason and I still get a kick out of hearing people ask for our wraps by name: “I'll take the Pablo Escobar,” “Let me try the Al Capone.” It's the little things when your brainchild comes to life I guess. Taking the theme even further, we also have a “Hit List” in which we add the name of one of our Facebook fans each month. Don't worry, the Hit List is a good thing, if you make our list you get a free wrap!
7. Are your dips sold separately?
Yes, you can pick them up in 5 oz and 9 oz portions.
8. Who's the audience for your catering?
Everyone! We offer wraps, sides, and dips which are great for office lunches, cocktail parties, birthday bashes, sporting events, graduations, showers, and more.
Our catering menu has more options than our food truck menu. We offer several excellent salads such as a falafel salad, tabbouleh salad, and Greek salad. Also, we have some down right amazing side items including cheesy potatoes and cheesy asparagus (we love cheesy sides!). It’s hard to offer a large menu on a food truck so we are happy to be able to bring more offerings to the catering side.
9. Can you tell us about yourselves?
Before opening the Pita Boss Jason worked in sales and I worked as a web designer. While we both loved many aspects of our previous work, we both were left desiring something more rewarding and yearned to be able to spend more time with each other. With our previous jobs we only saw each other a couple hours a day, now we are attached at the hip! The wife is happy, the husband is putting on a brave face.
10. What attracted you to a food truck?
The idea to open the Pita Boss actually happened in a pretty random and funny way. Well over a year ago, Jason picked up the hobby of bartering items on Craigslist for fun. One afternoon, Jason came across someone who was interested in trading their hot dog cart. Jason showed me the ad and immediately I was all for it. The trade for the hot dog cart never came to be, but the wheels were turning. Jason and I began brainstorming and together decided it would be really amazing if we were able to open a food truck and run it as a team. From that point on, Jason was online daily checking for anyone selling a food truck and eventually found someone who was willing to barter. After trading a motorcycle and a sedan, we were the proud new owners of a food truck. We began building out the truck to fit our needs and a little over a year and a half later, we were able to quit our jobs and open!