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From fighting fires to vending vittles: Canicus Catering Inc.

By Ashley on June 27, 2012

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Imagine: it’s a beautiful, sunny afternoon and you’re out mowing the lawn. The ever-present mobile rings, and it’s your best friend calling from Alberta. “Hey man, I was thinking about the pizzas you used to bake at Vittoria’s… Uh, how cool would it be to put an oven in the back of a fire truck?” I’m guessing you’d agree it’d be pretty cool, but crazy, and you’d get back to the grass cutting. Kyle Weisgerber went inside to check something on the internet. Ottawa, meet Canicus Catering Inc., the fire(food)truck.

It’s the brain child of Jason Paquette (caller) and Weisgerber (mower). The two have been best friends forever, so no surprise Paquette’s half-joke of an idea immediately struck a chord with Weisgerber. After hanging up the phone, he queried “fire truck” on Kijiji and found a 1967 Fargo pumper fire truck. Seriously. A gentleman who had been fascinated with the truck after watching it extinguish a fire at his house as a kid (!!!) used the decommissioned vehicle for events and parades. He was ready to part with it though, and three days after Paquette’s phone call the truck was in Weisgerber’s laneway.

Now the fire truck is a food truck, and one half of Canicus Catering Inc.’s mobile kitchen (Canicus is the latinized version of the Scottish-Gaelic name Cináed, which aptly means “born of fire”).  The water tank has been replaced by a wood-burning pizza oven, and a matching trailer was custom built to house the rest of the kitchen. The goal is for Canicus Catering Inc. to be something beyond a food truck — truly mobile catering. Having been open less than a week, they’re currently working the festival scene, but would be happy to come to your staff party/50th birthday/backyard wedding. They could even throw the lights on for the first dance.

You might be tempted to try it because of the novelty, but what is the food like? Right now they’re doing Italian food, because it’s what they know. Weisgerber worked at Vittoria Trattoria for years, and is putting his own spin on what he learned there. Standard pizza toppings like green peppers, mushrooms, and pepperoni are accompanied by fancier things like prosciutto, feta, and roasted red peppers. The pizzas might be simple, but simple is good. The trailer-made sauce is delicious, the wood-fired oven yields a tender-but-slightly-crisp crust, and you won’t find a speck of grease.  However, if you’re really hungry, I’d suggest the pasta. I tried the penne in rosé sauce, and easily got enough pasta for two meals. The pieces of mushrooms and ham were huge, and a subtle hint of brandy really made the dish. My noodles were a touch overcooked, but that’s opening week kinks for you. No kinks to be found with the dessert pizza though: Nutella topped with strawberries and mini marshmallows toasted to perfection in the oven. Mmmmmm. Given the portion sizes, everything is reasonably priced under $10.

With any business that’s less than a week old, there are bound to be changes. Keep in mind the current menu is just that: it’s what they are serving now, but not necessarily what they’ll always be serving. Weisgerber emphasizes they aren’t planning to become a regular side-of-the-road truck, and is looking forward to developing the catering side of things. Pizza and pasta are just the beginning, and I won’t reveal all of their plans, but a wood pellet fed smoker off the side of the truck may have been mentioned… Obvious right? Where there’s fire there’s smoke.

Canicus Catering Inc. can be found on Facebook, Twitter and at the Ottawa Jazz Festival until July 1st. They’re equipped with a wireless POS, so cash, credit and debit are all accepted.


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