By DAVID DUPONT
BG Independent News
Rosie’s Rolling Chef’s journey to a spot in Bowling Green streets hasn’t been easy.
The food truck version of the Toledo restaurant had to contend with long city council debates and a 180-slide Power Point presentation, and just when it was ready to launch the sub zero weather set in.
On Thursday, Feb. 7 though Rosie’s will take up its spot at 405 E. Wooster. The parcel was a gas station, then a car lot, and now will host Rosie’s Rolling Chef every weekend. And if local diners show their interest by patronizing the food truck, maybe something more.
Not that Rosie’s is a stranger to Bowling Green. It’s been here for Firefly Nights and a couple Black Swamp Arts Festivals, and Barone was a regular at city council meetings as the city’s food truck ordinance was debated and finally approved in June.
But this is a more regular arrangement, one that owner Phil Barone hopes may even evolve into a physical restaurant. It all depends on how well the hot mama bread, lobster Mac and cheese, lobster bisque, and grilled lamb chops sell.
Bowling Green, he said, was one of the last places in the area to open up to food trucks. He’s wanted to do business here for years.
He went to Bowling Green State University as did his wife. He graduated in 1978.
Though he first went into real estate after graduation, he and his brothers Mike and John opened Rosie’s in Toledo 36 years ago. The restaurant was named for their mother, the matriarch of the family and chief counselor for the restaurant.
She was born in Sicily and immigrated to the United States through Ellis Island, and under the gaze of the Statue of Liberty, when she was 5 years old.
“We just lost her about a year ago,” Barone said. She died at 98 last Feb. 4.
“We knew how to eat her food,” he said, but preparing it was another matter. “She always made food exciting,’ he said. But the recipes were all in her head, “a pinch of this, pinch of that.”
Chef Eric Kish worked with her to tweak them “so we have them down where we want them.”
Those recipes found their way to the streets seven years ago.
Barone said his brother Frank, a plastic surgeon, had just moved back to the area from Seattle. He took Phil aside and had two words of advice: “food trucks.”
He was sure Rosie’s cuisine would be a hit.
While it may be with diners, with city officials, not so much. “It’s been a fight the whole way,” Barone said.
Barone knew better than to go into battle alone. He founded the Toledo Food Truck Association, and hired legal counsel, to wage that fight municipality by municipality. “You can’t have laws to curb competition,” Barone said. “The purpose was to get food trucks together so we’re not fighting each other. So we can work together and share good gigs.”
Barone practices what he preaches.
He noted that a couple other trucks have beat him to the punch in Bowling Green, setting up in nearby lots. The customers for one truck park in the lot he leases from Bob Mauer.
He envisions having one day a week, maybe Wednesdays, where he’ll have other food trucks in the lot. “We can get some more trucks on that lot and have a party,” he said.
He’ll invite some artists to display their wares. And there’ll be music.
Barone leads Phil Barone and the Cruisers, known for his annual charity tributes to Jim Morrison and the Doors Tribute as well as covering artists such as Prince and Bruce Springsteen.
It’s just fun performing the music he loves, Barone said.
To start in Bowling Green he’ll have the larger of the two Rolling Chef trucks stationed at 405 E. Wooster, Thursdays through Saturdays, opening at 9 p.m. each night, and staying open until 2 a.m. Barone’s son, Philip Jr., will be in charge of the Bowling Green venture
Those hours are geared toward the college crowd, but he’s hoping to extend those hours, “if people accept us.”
If business merits, he’ll station both trucks, the 50-footer and the 25-foot Rolling Chef Jr. that serves “spicier cuisine” like the classic New Orleans po’ boy sandwich, on site.
Barone said they’ll certainly have soup on the menu. “It’s going to be cold for the next few months.”