The love of gathering family and friends for delicious food is a familiar trait that Maria and Emilio Dacoba have inherited as partial owners of their family restaurant, La Cantina Ristorante in Paw Paw. “You meet all kinds of different people and a lot of our customers have turned into friends,” said Maria. “Short of saying this industry is an addiction, once you get into it, it’s hard to leave.”
When the couple sold Mangia Kitchen and Bar in 2019, their plan was to focus on their catering and food truck business, Blue Plate. The couple recently opened a second food truck business, Bleu Burger, featuring gourmet hand-pattied burgers and fries. Originally, the couple had intended to open a new restaurant this year, but because of COVID-19 and dining restrictions, they decided to shift their efforts and further invest in the food truck business.
“In Kalamazoo, we have a pretty close-knit food truck community,” said Maria. “We have an informal association where we pass along ideas such as purchasing and events. If we’re ever busy for an event, we will pass that along to another food truck.” The association also organizes learning opportunities including speakers and courses such as a ServeSafe course, held earlier this year, to prepare the community for updated safety restrictions.
While they have seen an overall decrease in customers, they continue to participate in local events like Lunchtime Live! and the Food Truck Rallies, including the one tonight, in hopes that next year will be more profitable. “There’s nothing we can do about it. We kind of all resolved with the fact that this is going to happen for the whole season,” said Maria. “So we’re just all out there trying to do the best we can in hopes that maybe next year things will lighten up quite a bit and we can get back to our somewhat normal season.”