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3-Course Interview: Jammer Orintas

Jeanie Riess talks with the Theo's Pizza man about his new project — a food truck with a pizza oven inside

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Theo's Neighborhood Pizza (4024 Canal St., 504-302-1133, 4218 Magazine St., 504-894-8554, 1212 S. Clearview Pkwy, 504-733-3803; www.theospizza.com) has been in business for nearly a decade in a city that hasn't been known as a pizza town. Co-founder and co-owner Jammer Orintas has seen pizza shops come and go, but one thing he hadn't seen yet was a pizza food truck. Last month he started his own.

Why did you start a food truck after opening three restaurants?

Orintas: I've always wanted to do a food truck. I've really enjoyed going to different food trucks, and I didn't see any pizza food trucks out there. So I thought there was a void in the market.

  Since we don't deliver pizza, this is kind of the next best thing. We've been doing a lot of private parties, private events and things like that — where we can cook on site. I just don't think pizza travels that well. So it's kind of cool to pull up to somebody's house and have fresh pizza.

What are the biggest challenges associated with food truck pizza?

O: We have a 2,000-pound pizza oven in the back. It's the same oven we have in our restaurant, because we wanted to duplicate exactly what we do at the restaurant. We don't [have the same menu] on the truck; we do sliced pizza and salads. So we do pepperoni, cheese and a specialty pizza, but by the slice. In the restaurant, we just do whole pies. So it's a little bit different.

  (The oven) is a Baker's Pride hearthstone oven, so it's a stone oven. We've got it hooked up to two 100-pound propane tanks on the back. It's a re-creation of our kitchen on Magazine Street. It's almost an identical size with the same oven, prep table and all that good stuff. The difference is that we run natural gas out of the other stores and these are very large propane tanks.

  It's a 25-foot truck. It's actually an old FedEx truck that I bought and gutted and had some guys in Florida custom build for me. I'm not used to driving a truck that big, so it does have its challenges.

New Orleans is becoming more of a pizza city. Is it hard to keep up with the competition?

O: There's a lot more competition now, but [Theo's has] a very loyal clientele. So that's our niche, folks that enjoy our atmosphere and our pizza; they're our returning customers.

  To me, doing pizza by the slice out of a truck is neat and interesting. You see a lot of food trucks that (serve) tacos and items like that, but you just don't see a whole lot of pizza trucks. ... We've done a handful of events so far. We went to Old Point Bar last week and were really busy there. We're trying to hit some different areas and test it out.

  We have a Twitter account (@theospizzanola) that we use to post where we're going. We did an event at Gallier Hall [March 25} with a couple of other food trucks. We're going to set up a booth at French Quarter Fest. It enables us to do some bigger festival things on site. — Jeanie Riess

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