Neighborhood resident Travis Angelini knew from a young age that he was passionate about food. In fact, he had a dream to open his own restaurant.
Life had a few curveballs for Angelini – but he was able to use some of them to his advantage when he opened Meat the Cheese, a New York sandwich-inspired food truck that set up shop at 48th St. and the canal in March 2021. The truck is there during the week from 11 a.m.- 4 p.m.
Angelini was born in Florida to a military family and grew up in north Phoenix. When he was fresh out of high school, he attended Scottsdale Culinary School but ended up in a few different industries: nursing school, bartending (among other odd jobs) and eventually the banking and credit union trade.
“I was in that industry for years and just knew that I wanted to get back to my passion, which was food,” he said.
Since he had not been able to open a restaurant (yet!), he decided to do the next best thing. Because of last year’s events, he knew a food truck had potential since people weren’t eating in restaurants at the time.
“I knew food truck popularity was on the rise,” Angelini said. “They were being hyped up, so I went online and found one being sold in Los Angeles.”
He drove out, picked up the truck and set to work making it his own with inspiration from a father-daughter trip to the Big Apple.
Angelini said that the trip was eye-opening.
“Everything is so different there; the food, culture, the attitudes. It was like nothing I’d ever experienced. On each block, there was delicious food to try,” he said.
The “inexpensive” food carts in Spanish Harlem inspired Meat the Cheese’s staple item: the chopped cheese sandwich.
Made with ground beef, yellow cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, ketchup and mayo on a toasted hoagie bun, Angelini’s recipe comes straight from the heart – and his love for the city.
“The idea behind my menu is something quick, easy and delicious, like a hot dog cart in New York City,” he said. There are only three items on the menu: the chopped cheese, Nathan’s hot dog (with all the fixings) and ballpark pretzels. The truck also offers chips and drinks.
Once the food truck arrived at its new home in Phoenix, Angelini stripped it of its taco-themed vinyl and decided that he would further the New York vibe by decorating it like a subway.
“I would like a local artist to come out and spray-paint the truck with ‘graffiti,’” he said. “It’s for Arcadia – if someone wants to slap an Arcadia ‘A’ sticker on it or a local business sticker, I’m all for it.”
Eventually, Angelini would like to add other items, such as breakfast sandwiches, to the menu in the future.
“New York, Jersey and D.C. know what a real breakfast sandwich is. They would probably rip me to shreds [if I tried to make one],” he laughed.
Angelini said that the community had embraced the food truck since it opened. He even has a few regulars that come by almost daily.
“It’s scary to make something for the public. You’re thinking, ‘what if they don’t like it.’ It takes a lot of guts to really do this, but Meat the Cheese is doing it,” he said.
Angelini said choosing the right spot was both easy and hard to come by.
“I wanted to stay within the community but want to make sure that I’m not upsetting anyone. The canal is a busy area, and it feels like a good spot for us. One lady named Rosie comes by at least once a week for chopped cheese, and kids from Hopi and Arcadia come by; I offer a $5 chip, drink, hot dog special for them,” he said.
Above all, Angelini’s passion is serving good comfort food to the neighborhood.
“I want it to be a place for everyone to come hang out and get good food. I want to be here for my community and do what I can; if I can bring a New York vibe here, that’s what I’m going to do,” he said.
In the future, Angelini plans to attend more food-based events and hopefully expand his business to the Valley. Visit the Meat the Cheese Facebook page for more.