March 7, 2002

Two Trucks, Two Legacies, One 'Hot' Debate

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S ince the North Campus Residential Initiative went into effect, Louie’s Lunch (located near the intersection of Thurston and Wait across from Risley) has seen many more young faces lined up expectantly awaiting a sandwich, milk shake, or cup of coffee. Concurrently, since the upperclassmen who have decided to remain on campus are limited to living primarily on West Campus, the Hot Truck has been doing a good deal of business with older Cornellians. As a result, the long-standing rivalry (one that is almost exclusively limited to students as opposed to the two businesses’ respective proprietors) has been complicated.

But this rivalry is a strange one, indeed. As if it weren’t odd enough to have drunken students waiting in the chilly Ithaca pre-dawn for a bite of a meatball sub, many students hold fast to their favorite truck with an almost admirable, albeit strange, persistence. This loyalty even found its way into an a cappella song a few years back — a song that many of us have heard time and again. The Cayuga’s Waiters bit goes like so: “Louie’s Lunch kinda sucks/ Wait in line at Hot Truck” over a blend of vocals singing the harmony to Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” Though it’s obvious who the Waiters prefer, the short reference is telling. Like it or not, it seems Cornellians hold fast to their favorites, even when it comes to whose Chicken Parm they like better.

After a little polling, it became immanently clear that current Sophomores and Freshmen preferred Louie’s Lunch to the Hot Truck. Conversely, Juniors and Seniors were indefinitely more apt to reply that Hot Truck was there preferred late-night source of what some call “drunk food.”

With cameras and curiosity in our hands, daze recently set out to settle the matter once and for all. Unfortunately, what we found only complicated things. Both the Hot Truck and Louie’s Lunch have their strengths and weaknesses. Both are, in many respects, fixtures representing the long-standing Cornell tradition of grubbing at 3:00 a.m. Perhaps what was weirdest of all was the fact that the men who man both establishments so diligently wished each other well. The slanderous mud-slinging we had expected simply wasn’t there. Once again, this reinforced the fact that the “rivalry” between the two is a student-driven battle of wills.

S o, with our bellies full of parmesan cheese and our notebooks filled with items from the menu, we are proud to bring you a run-down of each of these Cornell legacies.

Hot Truck

HISTORY: Bob Petrillose is the man behind the innovation known now as the Hot Truck (which still bears his name). Petrillose operated the truck, called at that time Johnny’s Pizza Truck, from 1960 until 2000 when he sold it to the owner of the Shortstop Deli located downtown on Seneca St. The original name came from Petrillose’s father, Johnny Petrillose who opened Johnny’s Big Red Grill. In fact, the truck was initially an extension of that restaurant but over the years became a more specialized entity of its own. The original menu was much more conventional than the one that graces the side of the truck today. Instead of “PMP” and “Full Suicide” the menu read “Hamburger” and “Hotdog.” Since its sale in 2000, the truck has undergone few changes. In an attempt to maintain the high quality and traditions of Petrillose, the Hot Truck continues to serve up the same classic dishes as Petrillose himself used to.

THE EATS: One of the most interestin

Archived article by Nate Brown