At 28 feet long and weighing five tons, the black steel mobile barbecue pit stops traffic. Belching a bit of smoke, the rig and its companion refrigeration truck parked along Route 154 in Deep River most Saturdays and Sundays grab the attention of motorists passing by.
A red and white sandwich board at the edge of the pavement adds a few details – "roadside barbecue," it says, with ribs, brisket and pulled pork – but the heady aroma of slow-smoked meat is the main draw, says John Ciaglo, owner of All Fired Up, a traveling barbecue kitchen based in Deep River. On weekends, motorists can find Ciaglo and his wife, Tadria, dishing up plates of ribs, brisket and pulled pork in a grassy locale on South Main Street in Deep River, not far from exit 4 on Route 9.
After only a year in business, Ciaglo has become as adept at the art of barbecue as spotting those drivers who do a double-take when they see the mobile kitchen.
"He's a turnaround," Ciaglo will say to his wife, and sure enough the car makes a U-turn and the driver checks out the menu. "It's the aroma that gets them."
After almost 35 years in corporate life, Ciaglo was looking for a different kind of career when he began researching mobile barbecue cookers. He found a company in Texas to build the self-sufficient rig, which he designed. The spiffy cooking vehicle has the heft of a train car. The propane-fired kitchen features grills, smoking ovens, a bread and pizza oven, two burners made for 10-gallon pots of chili or chowder, two double sinks for washing and a hand sink. "I can feed five to six hundred people from this truck," Ciaglo says.
The Ciaglos had already spent years seeking out mom-and-pop BBQ spots and roadside stands in South Carolina, where they own a home in Pawleys Island. Instead of spending time on the beach or on the golf course, the couple sought out barbecue spots.
"We'd travel inland, stopping at all of these barbecue joints. Some of the best barbecue places were the ones you'd never eat in," he says, laughing. "But it's some of the best barbecue you'll have in your life."
They also found that these pit masters liked talking about their craft and sharing recipes. "Most are family-run businesses, and they are very open about how they [prepare barbecue]," he says. "We just listened to them."
Over the years, Ciaglo filed away those tips and experimented with recipes in his home kitchen. Last year, when the mobile kitchen and its trailer were finally complete, Ciaglo drove to Houston to bring the rig back to Connecticut.
And All Fired Up was born as a weekend business and catering operation. Besides cooking roadside on Saturdays and Sundays, Ciaglo also has catered corporate events and home parties such as graduation celebrations. He finds that his clients like the food but are enthralled by the rig. "They love it," he says. "They want the rig in their back yard. It's not just about the food. People like to talk about this thing."
All Fired Up opened for business in mid-July of 2013 with a menu of pulled pork, brisket, ribs and the trimmings. Ciaglo expected the ribs to be the best seller, but pulled pork and brisket quickly became the favorites.
"We have one customer who is the first one waiting for us to set up every week," he says. "He orders the pulled pork with slaw and sauce on the side."
Ciaglo rubs the ribs and brisket with a spice blend before cooking and serves them with his own spicy barbecue sauce. "We give people the option of sauce if they want it," he says. "That's real Southern barbecue." He uses white or red oak logs for smoking the meat because they give a more subtle smoky flavor. "You want the smoke, but you want to be able to taste the meat," he says.
Ciaglo serves sandwiches on fresh Kaiser rolls ($7-8) or plates that include a choice of molasses baked beans or red potato salad or Carolina slaw ($8 to $16 for a sampler of ribs, pulled pork and brisket). Extra sides are available by the cup ($3-4) or, in the case of cornbread, by the slice ($1.50). Meats and sides also are sold by the pound ($11-18) or by the pint ($3-4) and can be ordered in advance.
For information about All Fired Up, visit www.allfiredupct.com or call 860-304-9380.Copyright © 2015, CT Now