A chef at a Michelin star restaurant who has brought Italian style and vintage vehicles to the world of mobile catering has kept his business going through the Covid-19 lockdown by switching to home delivery.
Alex Vincenzo Miraglia runs Altieri Catering from the Lock Stock Storage Park on Saltney’s River Lane and after just 12 months in business had already built up an impressive list of clients including the Leeds Festival, Stafford Classic Motorcycle Show and Kelsall Steam Rally.
Alex, from Naples, the home of pizza, has worked in a Michelin-starred restaurant in Milan and five-star hotels in Italy before coming to the UK where last year he decided to branch out on his own.
Then came lockdown in March and the cancellation of all those events but Alex has adapted and moved a trailer equipped with a portable brick-lined pizza oven from the Lock Stock site on River Lane, Saltney, to the drive of his home in Hoole in Chester and started baking.
He is already cooking and delivering up to 100 pizzas a day during busy weekends with customers and has also started adding Greek-style gyros, meat cooked on a rotary skewer, to his menu.
Still at Lock Stock and ready for a return to normal trading are his converted 1951 Morris Commercial van, a refrigerated van for the Italian foodstuffs he uses, durum wheat flour, buffalo mozzarella, cured meats and sausage, herbs and olive oil, and a 1942 Morris van with a working engine which is awaiting a refurb before it joins the Altieri fleet.
Alex, 33, who lives in Chester, with his partner and their children, said: “I came here to work in a restaurant chain four years ago but I saw there was a market for mobile catering.
“The idea was to give it an Italian flavour and to make it high quality with ingredients from Italy which cost a bit more but are worth it for the taste.
“I was amazed at how quickly it grew but then came the virus and I had to do something so I switched to home deliveries and we’ve been amazed how busy we have been.
“The vans are amazing – I think the 1951 model is the only one of its kind in catering and we have equipped it to sell Greek-style gyros, meat sliced from a vertical skewer while the trailer is for the pizza oven.”
Now instead of touring the country and showing up at some of the UK’s biggest events, weddings and private parties, their distinctive converted trailer is kept increasingly busy at home.
It’s Italian-made wood-fired brick oven heats up to a sizzling 500C and is capable of turning out 120 pizzas an hour – cooking two of those glorious golden discs of dough with their toppings of San Marzano tomatoes, creamy mozzarella and fragrant basil in under a minute.
Lock Stock Site Manager Mike Trow can vouch for the quality and he said: “They’re gorgeous, you can definitely taste the difference and I’m really impressed with the vehicles as well.
“Alex had got a great business idea but he’s shown how adaptable he is and we’re also providing him with a storage unit here which houses his fridges and freezers as we have a full electric supply ready for when his mobile business returns.
“The units are ideal for businesses because they’re fully insulated and secure with 24/7 access, the units come in a variety of sizes and, of course, they free of business rates.”
Lock Stock have 360 units at Saltney, all painted in their distinctive dark green livery, and all are eight foot high by eight foot wide and come in 10, 20 and 40 foot lengths with storage capacities ranging from 640 cubic feet to 2,560 cubic feet.
Alex added: “Lock Stock in Saltney is a perfect place for us – we keep our catering vehicles here as it’s a great location and very secure.
“For now the takeaways are doing well and some days we have three of us here preparing and cooking the pizzas with two on deliveries to a six-mile radius.
“If we’re not too busy we can get a genuine Italian pizza to you piping hot in 20 minutes – how’s that for service.”