food trucks
food trucks

In cities like Austin and Los Angeles, where the food truck scenes are extensive and thriving, many trucks use a central hub, called a commissary, to store ingredients, do preparatory work and outfit their mobile kitchens with everything they need before they hit the road to cook.

In Pittsburgh, that’s not so much the case. At least, not yet. Steve LaRosa, formerly the chef trainer for Springboard Kitchens, would like to change that.

“There are no real commissaries for food trucks in Pittsburgh and in order to operate a food truck you have to have a commissary,” LaRosa says. “The way food trucks operate now, they’ll either rent space from a restaurant or small garages which truck owners have retrofitted themselves to use as commissaries.”

LaRosa says he envisions a central hub which all of Pittsburgh’s food trucks can call home. That’s why he’s working toward funding the Pittsburgh Commissary Exchange, or PGH CommEx.

LaRosa launched his idea at Pittsburgh Startup Weekend in March. While he’s not yet sure where he’ll headquarter CommEx just yet, he does have a number of options.

One of them hinges on the URA selecting the plan from Rubino Partners to become the sole developer of the Strip District’s Produce Terminal. That plan calls for a food truck row outside the building, and LaRosa says Rubino plan architect Rob Pfaffman contacted him about putting the commissary in the terminal. But Rubino is widely considered a long shot to win the rights to develop the terminal.

LaRosa says he’d also like to look for space in either Braddock or McKees Rocks. Both areas have the kind of space he needs and both could certainly use the development.

“Both are basically food deserts,” he says. “People in these areas don’t have access to good food. When I get this open, I’d like to get people to come and learn about food. It’s healthier and you save a lot more money.”

Lomito Food Truck, Street Food Pittsburgh and Saucy Mamma’s are among the food trucks backing LaRosa’s idea.

In addition to being a hub for food trucks, LaRosa says he sees PGH CommEx as having the potential to do great things for a community. In addition to helping new food trucks get started in the area, the commissary would help promote existing member trucks, teach cooking classes and offer chef demonstrations.

“There’s no reason the average person shouldn’t be able to cook some basic stuff. I’ve met so many people who think they don’t know anything about cooking. If I can help out in that way, I’d be more than happy to,” LaRosa says. “I would love to bring chefs in and be a mouthpiece for Pittsburgh’s food revolution.”

While LaRosa was successful in raising $1,275 during the first stage of his crowdfunding campaign, the second stage, which he did through the Pittsburgh Downtown Community Development Corporation’s Hatch initiative didn’t go as well. LaRosa is exploring other options to help get the startup off the ground and a Kickstarter campaign is likely his next move.

Matthew Wein is a local writer, editor, blogger, storyteller and proud native Pittsburgher. Once described as "a man of things," he covers city design, spirits and craft beer for NEXT, where he keeps all of the editorial meetings light-hearted and interesting. His interests include sorting books, looking at old things and candles which smell like old-growth pine forests.