Red, Yellow, Green

Red, Yellow, Green

“You can’t make everyone happy. You are not pizza.” So reads a sign near the oven at Big Green Truck Takeout, whose catering-oriented forerunner, Big Green Truck Pizza, has been making eventgoers happy since 2003 with a fleet of big, green, 1950s-era trucks equipped to make pizza on the spot.

These days, it doesn’t take a catered event to enjoy Big Green’s savory scarlet sauce or chewy flaxen crust marbled with dark New Haven char. It just takes a phone or an internet connection.

Big Green Takeout owner Doug Coffin filled me in on some recent developments. At the start of 2020, his Big Green Truck catering business, which he just recently sold to longtime colleague Liane Varipapa-Pope, was going strong, and his next door pizza restaurant, a separate joint venture named—why not?—Next Door, was slowly becoming profitable, with a sizable back room suitable for events and a menu offering tasty, creative dishes spearheaded by partner Robin Bodak. We all know what happened next. “It seemed like we were perhaps getting there when COVID hit and we went into lockdown,” Coffin recounts. Next Door tried reopening with outdoor dining in July, but in an all-too-familiar pandemic story, the volume of business wasn’t gaining on the volume of bills, so closing seemed a smarter option.

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Big Green Truck Pizza, however, was able to operate safely at small outdoor gatherings. Starting from a good financial position—the trucks and garage were already paid off—Coffin was able to keep that business going. Still, colder weather was on the horizon even while the pandemic’s end was not, which would soon mean fewer safe, outdoor catering bookings.

Then, thanks to a little creativity and a flexible landlord, a solution was achieved: Big Green Truck Takeout, which fired up at the end of the summer using the very same pizza oven that had pleased so many diners at Next Door. When I headed over to grab some of that takeout—you can also get it delivered—I found a COVID-conscious pickup station just inside the door at the back of the lot. The pizza menu, which offers the ability to sub in non-dairy cheese, will feel familiar to anyone who has attended Big Green Truck events or dined at Next Door, from the margherita-style Fresh Mozzarella to the BBQ Chicken to the Vinnie’s Veggie, which promises an unusual melange of “seasoned kale + caramelized onions + mushroom + gorgonzola” on a white pie. The rest of the menu includes some 25 salads, sides and entrees as well as several desserts.

As for me and my family, we started with pizza—the New Haven Plain, an apparent nod to the venerable tomato pies served up by the likes of Pepe’s and Sally’s. Starring a flavorful sauce generously sprinkled with Pecorino Romano and bits of garlic, the taste was anything but plain. The garlic flavor was strong, which for us was a plus, and was enhanced by the salt level of the thin, chewy crust.

Next up was the Mashed Potato pizza, a concept first popularized by BAR downtown that has also been a hit at Big Green Truck events. But it was largely new to us. The richness of the buttery, creamy mashed potatoes and the sweetness of the caramelized onions made this my favorite item we tried.

My kids’ favorite was the Garlic Knots, which were plump, moist, and flavorful. But the Warm Salad, which is vegan unless you opt to add chicken or cheese, was much more colorful, offering well-selected roasted winter vegetables tossed with kale and radicchio, the bitterness of the latter offset by sweet cranberries and a cider dressing. We also tried the Oven Roasted Salmon, which was tasty paired with a dill sauce and came served over a wild rice pilaf and assorted vegetables.

Somehow, we’d managed to save room for dessert. Sweets are always a hit in our family, and the Big Green Truck’s did not disappoint. The Bourbon Bread Pudding with a yummy house-made whipped cream was popular with the adults, and the Ginger Molasses Cookies, four to an order, tasted like something my grandmother would have made. The hands-down favorite, though, was the Lemon Ricotta Cookies, fluffy and frosted, each bite delivering a well-balanced hit of lemon.

The takeaway? The food was delicious, even when delivered out of my old red Subaru instead of a big green truck.

Big Green Truck Takeout
175 Humphrey St, New Haven (map)
Takeout Hours: Tues-Sun 4-8:45pm
Delivery Hours: Tues-Sun 5-8:45pm
(203) 654-9514

Written and photographed by Stephanie Wratten. Image 2 features Doug Coffin.

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