For 20 years, Ron Smith worked as a mason. He would build fireplaces and outdoor kitchens with brick ovens for his clients. He said he always had a brick oven of his own that he would cook pizzas in too.
Four years ago when Smith and his wife, Kristin, moved to Salida from Denver, and St. Louis before that, he built a brick oven on the bed of a red 1959 two-ton Chevy pickup truck.
He initially built the food truck to sell to raise some money for the house they were building, but said once he finished the truck he didn’t want sell it.
“If I sold it around here, I wouldn’t be able to do (a similar food truck),” he said.
So Smith parked the truck in his backyard. They used it occasionally, but when the pandemic hit Smith had time to see if he could make a business of cooking pizzas out of the truck.
The Smiths opened Red Truck Pizza in June near Lagree’s in Poncha Springs, operating the food truck Thursday through Saturdays.
“It was going pretty good and we got a nice little following,” Smith said. “I’m glad we decided to make a run at it.”
Once some of the same people starting coming back again and again, he said he realized they might have something.
With winter around the corner, Smith said he began thinking about how to winterize the food truck and possibly enclosing it.
An opening in the Bainbridge building near Poncha Lumber, however, provided a brick and mortar spot for the brick layer.
“This place was empty and I peaked in the window and it was perfect,” he said. “The area needed something down here and it’s convenient for a lot of people.”
He also said the owner was “nice enough” to let him build one more brick oven in the restaurant. So, using old Salida brick, Smith built a 6-foot wide by 8-foot tall brick oven that now serves as the centerpiece of the establishment.
On Nov. 5, Red Truck Pizza opened at its new location, 10015 W. U.S. 50 in Poncha Springs.
While Smith worked as a mason prior, he said he’s been cooking his whole life.
“I’m passionate about food,” he said. “It’s been my hobby forever.”
He said brick ovens can cook pizzas in 2-4 minutes at temperatures ranging from 750-900 degrees because they produce a moist heat.
He also uses crust specifically for the brick ovens.
“It gives the crust a unique texture; it’s a crunchy-chewy,” he said. “To me, the crust is the star of the show.”
He said people who have been to Italy, where his grandparents were from, have told him that his crust is the closest they’ve had to Italy’s.
Smith cooks the pizzas using the Neapolitan style and has two menus: an old school menu with traditional pies and a new school menu with less traditional pies.
Smith said a lot of adults want something that they’ve never had before, and offers unique pizzas to cater to them.
He joked that their crab rangoon pizza is the closest thing Salida has to Chinese food.
Red Truck’s Fancy Pants pizza, meanwhile, has bacon, brussels sprouts and balsamic vinegar.
The STL S.O.B, meanwhile, has sausage, onion and bacon, but the kicker is its topped with “provel cheese smuggled back from the cheese caves of Missouri.”
He said provel cheese, which he has to have friends or family bring him when they visit, is part provolone, part mozzarella and part liquid smoke.
“You’re not going to find that (cheese) anywhere besides St. Louis,” he said.
And to encourage people to try new things, all 19 of Red Truck’s pizzas are the same size and the same price: $13.
“A lot of times people get the cheapest things so they’re more apt to try things this way (with everything the same price),” he said.
Red Truck is open for dine in and take out from 4-7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and from noon-7 p.m. on Saturdays.
Ron and Kristin still run the restaurant by themselves.
People can contact Red Truck at 719-207-4612 and find more information at https://www.facebook.com/redtruckpizzaco.
“Our model is be really good and people will come to us,” Smith said.
And the original red truck won’t stay parked. Smith said they’d like to use it for festivals in the future.