Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Island of Sausage Heros

Last week I was walking down Woodhaven Boulevard along Saint John's Cemetery, and I came across a food truck selling Italian sausage heros.

Google Maps tells me that this is on the edge of Middle Village, but it's kind of Forest Hills and kind of Rego Park and maybe a little Glendale. In any case, there were a lot of guys (yes, all guys, mostly working class guys like plumbers) getting heros. I got one. It was good.

It's only now that I discover that D'Angelo's Sausage and Pepper Truck is actually pretty famous, serving those heros from the same spot for forty-three years. Victor Mimoni called it "The Peter Luger's of Sausage Wagons." I saw a hot dog truck a block north, and it's owned by the same family. D'Angelo's sausage was named one of the Best of New York by the Daily News in December.

The odd thing about it was that there was nowhere for me to eat my hero. It would have been really messy to eat standing up, but there were no benches. There was a bus stop a couple of blocks away, but it was only local buses, and nobody had used it. The trucks weren't all that close to the cemetery gates, and none of the guys went inside. Instead they walked to their cars and sat inside and ate. I was the only one who had arrived on foot.

I didn't have a car to sit in, so I kept walking. Eventually I came to a little triangle park and ate there, but I've been thinking about this place ever since. There is always a space for the D'Angelos to park their trucks. As you can see in the picture, there is no standing allowed overnight. I'm so used to people complaining about not being able to park that at first I was surprised to see so many spaces empty. Then I realized that these spaces are a long walk from anywhere.

This side of Saint John's cemetery is a half mile long. Woodhaven Boulevard is ten lanes wide here, and there is only one crosswalk in the whole stretch. There's really nothing much interesting on the east side of the boulevard in this section either: a bunch of gas stations and car washes, and single-family houses behind them. In other words, only a handful of people live or work within walking distance. Hence, nobody cares if the parking spaces sit empty all night, and all of D'Angelo's customers drive.

It all adds up to a strange little island off the coast of the cemetery, a place that nobody walks to. People drive there, walk to the sausage truck, eat in their cars and drive away.


Pat said...

Strange. There must have been something there at some point. The whole purpose of a food truck is to go where your customers are. And then, I would guess, once the truck got famous enough people started coming from further away and they no longer needed to move.

BBnet3000 said...

I was wondering about this truck awhile ago (I live by LeFrak City but take the Q53 to Trader Joes at Metropolitan Ave).

You know the old adage (or is it?) that you can tell a neighborhoods composition by looking at the money-wiring/calling card stores and the funeral parlors. The calling card stores show you who is moving in, and the funeral homes show you who is moving (or dying) out.

My idea here was originally that this served people visiting the cemetery, many of whom are likely Italian knowing the changing demographics of the city. Though, if its actually serving people driving by that may be way off.

Actually, in reply to Pat, im not sure that food trucks purpose really is to move (though some do, or may serve more than one fixed location). For the most part, trucks and carts serve places where there isnt food for various reasons>

1) An institutional building with no storefronts, such as W 4th St in front of the NYU's Tisch Hall. Theres no businesses in any of the NYU buildings on the block.

2) Modernist buildings with no storefront, as in some of Midtown (or where office buildings have such a density that the storefronts in them are not enough)

3) Areas where food establishments have been out-bid by other types, such as Broadway in SoHo. Every building has a storefront, but theyre all clothing stores, so food carts pick up the slack.

This does fit the bill, despite the kind of low density and obvious heavy car use of this area, there is such a lack of food for so many blocks that this can thrive.

capt subway said...

I live in Forest Hills, around the 75 Ave station, but out tax accountant is just the other side of Woodhaven near the cemetery. So a couple a times a year, during tax season, I get to walk over there. Agreed, that stretch of Woodhaven Blvd is truly, relentlessly dull & uninviting to a stroller. But now I'm going to have to hike over there and check out this sausage guy. I'll take one home and warm it up and eat it in the comfort of my own kitchen.

capt subway said...
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Adirondacker12800 said...

Life was different in 1970. Food trucks weren't viewed as a good thing. He picked a place where no one would complain. Since it had a lot of parking, the people in cars went there.