You don't have to travel too far outside the Utica area for food staples like chicken riggies, Utica greens and tomato pie to disappear from restaurant menus. So what's a Utica native to do when he can't find his hometown foods elsewhere in Upstate New York? Set up a food truck, of course.

Papa Gig's is a food truck in the Rochester area that specializes in Utica delicacies like rigiges, greens and beans and tomato pie. It's run by a Utica native whose family used to own Gig's restaurant and bar.

The owner tells the story of how he came to run his truck of Utica spspecialties:

 Although I loved Italian food, I couldn’t cook worth a damn.  Proof of that came with a shock as I lived for the first time on my own in Fort Lauderdale.  I came home from work one day to fire trucks at my apartment.  It appears I left eggs boiling on the stove and they exploded all over the kitchen.   Not long after, my parents came to visit me where I attempted to make sauce.  My father literally gagged on tasting the concoction that I had whipped up and we immediately went out to eat the first day of their visit.
After a year in Florida, I moved back to Utica and taught biology in a small community outside of Utica called Frankfort.  As you guessed, Frankfort was also predominately Italian.   In 1975, I married my wife Barbara who was from Rochester.  Although my wife was Italian, she adopted the cooking that is characteristic of the Utica NY area thanks to my mom.

My wife Barb developed Multiple Sclerosis shortly after our marriage.  After twenty years living in the Utica area, we moved to Rochester so she could be closer to her family.   Over time, she lost the use of both her legs and arms.  This didn’t stop her love of cooking and as a result, I had to be her surrogate in that department.  She would sit in the kitchen in her wheel chair while telling me how to cook the foods I loved so much.  I am now a widower and retired but her legacy lives on.  My mother-in-law, who lived with us many summers in Rochester, also contributed her recipes to my wife- probably the best being her chicken soup.

Since 2012, all I have been hearing about is food trucks.  I remembered my wish of owning one while I was at Syracuse, and so now, I do!   Today, I am keeping the legacy of Barb, my mother, and my mother-in-law alive by passing their recipes on to you in this food truck.  I took my business name from my father’s business in Utica, and Papa Gig’s was born.

I do hope Rochester residents appreciate the wonderful, unique cuisine of Utica they get to enjoy. If you're ever in the Flour City and want a taste of home, follow Papa Gig's on Twitter to see where they're serving next.

[Papa Gig's]

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