New York, NY: Eating Along the 4 Line: Food Trucks Feed the Masses Near Grand Central

JEFF BACHNER FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS The Bian Dang truck is a rare Manhattan provider of Taiwanese food.

By Rachel Wharton | New York Daily News

JEFF BACHNER FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS The Bian Dang truck is a rare Manhattan provider of Taiwanese food.
JEFF BACHNER FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
The Bian Dang truck is a rare Manhattan provider of Taiwanese food.

Now that warm weather finally threatens to arrive, it’s time to think about heading outside for lunch. These days there’s surprisingly no better place to order al fresco than midtown, thanks to dozens of trucks that regularly roll up its streets.

The area directly north of Grand Central Terminal along Park Ave. is a current street food hot spot, though many vendors say increased attention from traffic cops might mean their run this spring could be limited. Head out soon to be sure you get a chance to sample these three longstanding crowd favorites.

TAIWAN ON

Taiwanese fare is rare in Manhattan, but thanks to Thomas Yang’s five-year-old food truck, you can sample the basics for under $10. While the cart offers a slew of cheap snacks like dumplings, pork-stuffed buns, glutinous rice balls and stir-fried anchovies and peanuts (all $3), most customers, says staffer Stanley Tang, come for Taiwanese comfort food classics.

The two best sellers are heaping $7 plates of rice topped with a tea-smoked egg and either a quarter fried-chicken or a slab of fried pork chop. The whole mess is sauced with tart-tangy pickled greens and a rich, succulent sauce loaded with ground pork.

Formerly known as Cravings, this purple and pink-flower painted truck was recently renamed Bian Dang — which means “Taiwanese lunchbox,” natch — and currently splits its time between DUMBO, midtown and the Financial District. For the daily schedule, check out their Twitter feed or website.

JEFF BACHNER FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS There's more than pizza at Jiannetto's Pizza & Catering truck.
JEFF BACHNER FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
There’s more than pizza at Jiannetto’s Pizza & Catering truck.

MOBILE PIZZA UNIT

You can catch the scent of sweet red sauce and crisping crust from at least a block away from Jiannetto’s Pizza & Catering, thanks to a rack of real pizza ovens inside.

Using recipes culled from his mother and sisters in Annadale, Staten Island, Joe Jiannetto has been feeding lunch lines since 1998, when he started working on his first truck downtown. Now there’s another uptown (usually on E. 47th near Park Ave.) serving his famous $2.75 upside-down, square Sicilian “grandma” slices — mozz on the bottom, sauce and Pecorino Romano on top — made on dough so chewy and flavorful, there’s no way you’ll leave your crusts behind.

Jiannetto’s also offers baked ziti or stuffed shells ($7.50 with garlic knots), fried rice balls stuffed with peas, beef and cheese ($5), and excellent eggplant parm sandwiches — thinly sliced, perfectly fried and sauced for $7.50 — made on crusty loaves that cook Jake Tortorello crisps in those 500-degree ovens. What’ll it be like inside the truck come August? “You don’t want to know,” he laughs.

JEFF BACHNER FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS A Moroccan dish from the Comme Ci Comme Ca truck, which parks near Park Ave. and 52nd St. Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/eats/eating-4-line-grand-central-area-article-1.1301627#ixzz2PDhUUNz8
JEFF BACHNER FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
A Moroccan dish from the Comme Ci Comme Ca truck, which parks near Park Ave. and 52nd St.

MOROCCAN GETAWAY

Afrit Samir, the owner of Comme Ci, Comme Ça, never intended to cook for a living. Instead the Moroccan native — who lived in Paris before arriving in New York City 13 years ago — worked in marketing in midtown.

But homesick for the food of his country, he started Skyping with his mother to learn the basics of their cuisine. Eventually he started cooking Saturday suppers for friends at his Astoria home, until one suggested he could do it for a living.

Now he does, getting up early to prepare traditional Moroccan dishes like the spiced lamb sausage called merguez (served in an $8 sandwich with caramelized onions, peppers and green olives) or the flaky savory pastry tubes called cigars, stuffed with chicken and almonds or beef mixed with feta, mint and cilantro (both $4).

His star dish is likely the first one his mother taught him: the fine semolina couscous he steams for hours in an aromatic vegetable-based broth. The Royale ($12) is big enough for two and topped with all manner of poached vegetables that Samir cooks each morning individually, as well as merguez, lemon chicken, sliced steak and house-made kofta, or little meatballs spiced with onions, peppers, olives and cilantro.

Most days Samir is parked near 52nd St. and Park Ave., but he hopes to soon take his brightly painted truck to his own Astoria neighborhood for a second shift in the evenings.

http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/eats/eating-4-line-grand-central-area-article-1.1301627