It’s horses to main courses for savvy street food chef
Carlo Alambi and his wife Sarah transformed a 45-year-old horsebox into a mobile fine dining establishment with a fully fitted kitchen and wood fire oven and are following their dreams
A SAVVY Trim chef says restoring a rundown horsebox into a gourmet food truck in lockdown has allowed him to continue his family’s legacy in authentic Mediterranean food.
Carlo Alambi (50) who spent 30 years running kitchens across Dublin, Meath and beyond says it was always his dream to follow in his father’s footsteps and set up his own business.
Carlo’s dad, Ugo opened one of Ireland’s first authentic Italian restaurants, “Pizzeria Italia” in Temple Bar in the 1980s.
Temple Bar back then was a far cry from the buzzing tourist hub that it is today and although business was slow initially, it became one of the most popular eateries in the area hosting an array of famous faces over the years who popped in for bite to eat before headlining the nearby Olympia Theatre.
After seeing a similar operation on a stay in Cork, Carlo and his wife Sarah decided to bite the bullet and take on the project of renovating the 45-year-old horsebox into a mobile fine dining establishment with a fully fitted kitchen and wood fire oven.
Med Street Food located at the back of the Bounty Bar in Trim prides itself on using only the finest ingredients and the passionate chef makes his own dough, sauces and pesto from scratch, sourcing local produce as much as possible.
Among the many mouth-watering offerings on the menu are sourdough wood fired pizzas, tapas platters and honey glazed chicken wings. The Med also boasts a mini garden where herbs and fruit are grown to use on their dishes.
“For many years I had been planning to open my own business but with it’s very expensive to find a property now, get it kitted out and find a location,” said Carlo.
“We came across a food truck in Cork that had restaurant quality food coming out of a horse box, it blew me away and it just got me thinking, I could do that, and I said to my wife, come on we’ll try it.
“It was a 1976 horsebox, but it was kept out of the weather. The outside was in good nick it was just the inside had to be completely gutted and stainless steel and proper floors put in. It is fully kitted out with hand sink, prep sink, worktop, three door fridge and freezer. There is a roof going over the oven and a canopy going over the horsebox.”
Carlo’s father, Ugo, was travelling around Europe as a chef and came to Ireland in the 1960s. Originally from the town of Sapri in southwestern Italy, he later moved to Rome with his family.
The Trim dad of three says his time working in his father’s restaurant as a youngster instilled a passion for fresh, authentic food and recalls those years based in the heart of Temple Bar. He said:
“Temple Bar in the 80s had no lights, the buses were flying up and down, it was quite derelict, it was a scary place to be. My father bought this little coffee shop and did it up. It was one of the first pizzerias in Ireland that used fresh dough.
“I was in school at the time, I was 17 maybe 18 and it was very quiet and within six months you started seeing the regulars coming back and it started picking up and it got a great name.
“There were so many famous people eating there regularly. Anybody who was playing in the Olympia Theatre was told to come to us, it was a phenomenal place, at three o lock in the day you could have the Dubliners sitting there and I remember we had Paul Young and his band in every evening for a week, in the 80s he was huge.
“One day I came in and saw this guy that I thought was familiar and it was Anthony Kiedis, the lead singer of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and on the same day I finished, and my mother told me that Elvis Costello was in that night. It was one of these places, it was quaint, it was very intimate inside, there were 25 seats. That’s where I got the passion for the food, I think.
“Mediterranean food is so simple. It is the most basic ingredients put together correctly and you have a beautiful dish.”
Not only did humble horse box give Carlo the opportunity he had been looking for to put his own stamp on Mediterranean food locally, it also gave him back precious family time that would become more needed than ever as he explains:
“I have so much more time now. During the first lockdown, our son, Matthew was three and nonverbal and we an inkling that he could be on the spectrum so eventually he was assessed by a psychologist privately and was diagnosed with autism.
“With lockdown had nothing available to us so that was tough, and I decided then if I do this I am less from a kilometre from my house, I’m so close, I can help my wife, she had to give up her job in a pharmacy and is a home carer for Matthew.”
The chef is also dad to Daniel (11) has even got the seal of approval from his father since opening his new venture.
“I cooked him the cacciatore that he taught me many moons ago, my mother was telling me that mine was much better than his, that was a fun lunch!”