Matt Maroni's meals are built for wheels.
The store part of gaztro-wagon is a parenthetical—literally. The restaurant’s website’s tagline: “Chicago’s latest chef driven mobile food truck (and store).” This is immediately evident from the space itself: a bare-bones outfit, with every step of chef-owner Matt Maroni’s process—from rolling out the fresh naan bread to piling on toppings—on display.
Beyond the store itself, that food-truck goal is built into the way the food is served. Maroni’s watermelon gazpacho? It’s great—refreshing, well-seasoned, the watermelon broth balanced with chopped onion and cucumber. But as a dine-in customer, it’s pretty hard to get over eating it out of a plastic, grocery-store-like takeaway container. Even though I told the guys behind the counter I’d be eating in, the “naanwiches” were wrapped well enough in foil that I could have eaten one while riding my bike. In fact, the meat-laden wild-boar naanwich was exactly the kind of thing I could see myself eating, with one hand, at 2am on a Saturday night, while precariously steering myself home.
That’s the point. Maroni’s chef-driven food-truck—a.k.a., his gaztro-wagon—is in the works but currently stalled while he waits for the city inspection that will grant him a mobile-food vending license. So in the meantime, there’s gaztro-wagon (the store), where all the naanwiches for the truck will ultimately be prepared. And for the meantime, the food is good enough to stand on its own. The concept of a naanwich is thus: Anything that commonly comprises a sandwich, rolled up in a piece of fresh-baked naan. Hence that meat bomb of a boar naanwich, packed with pieces of fat-dripping, crispy-edged swine, mingling with sweet roasted fennel, all that richness barely—I might say, insufficiently—counteracted by sauteed kalamata olives and a whiff of spice from pickled red onion.
How does a lobster roll fare as a naanwich? Not so badly, actually. There’s no skimping on fresh lobster, and in contrast to the wild boar, the amount of cucumber alongside the lobster makes this practically a salad…right? Still, I couldn’t quite get the combination of lobster-roll filling and Indian-food vessel to jibe. And although it’s possible eating that naanwich served from a moving vehicle could change that, it’s more likely that for Maroni, the medium is most of the message.
5973 N Clark St (773-942-6152). El: Red to Thorndale. Bus: 22, 84. Lunch, dinner (closed Sun, Mon). Average main course: $8.