Talk about cleaning house at the end of the year. Matt Maroni, who founded the Gaztro-Wagon and helped pioneer Chicago's burgeoning food truck movement, has handed over the reins of the truck and shuttered its brick-and-mortar storefront in Edgewater. Further, he is taking a step back at Morso, a restaurant he opened only in August.
Maroni told Eater that he will move into a consulting role with both projects for the next few months, but that he wants to figure out his next move. "I'm not sure yet what I'm going to do; I'm figuring out where I'm going to go," he said. "Maybe I'll take a day off or two [laughs]. I'm just continuing down the food road, but don't know where yet."
Maroni said his departure from Morso was amicable and that he and his partners at the restaurant, Brian Troglia and John Held, parted on mutual terms and he's there to help out through the transition. It sounded like Maroni got burned out on the day-to-day operations as well as overseeing and cooking in the kitchen. "I was trying to do the one man growth machine and it just didn't pan out without any other managers who could help do the day-to-day stuff," he said. "It's a small establishment and there's not a ton of room for that many people."
It sounds like Maroni's partners see things differently, and even more positively. They will continue operating Morso, which is closed for an extended holiday until Jan. 14, with the current staff and will move cook Phil Rodriguez to the lead role, according to Troglia. "[Maroni's] essentially going to still be, unless he tells me he doesn't want to be, part of the overall restaurant group," Troglia said. "He's not leaving leaving, but toning things down to a significant degree. Other than that nothing at Morso is going to change."
Well, almost nothing. Troglia added they're going to likely retool the lounge menu to have it focus more exclusively on charcuterie and cheeses, while the menu in the main dining room will remain as is. And mixologist Matthew "Choo" Lipsky will continue in his position overseeing the beverage program.
As for the Gaztro-Wagon, Maroni said that will hit the road again once the weather warms up, but that it'll be run by someone else, but with the same focus—naanwiches—that have built a cult following for the truck. Troglia said they're in the final stages to figure out who will take over the truck and that they're also looking for a new Gaztro-Wagon storefront.
While Troglia, who has also been the attorney working on Gaztro-Wagon and the food truck movement, said they're hoping to expand that business, Maroni said he had been financing the truck on his own. He added that operating it throughout the cold months is just not realistic and that he was ready to step aside.
"I was just ready for a break and going through winter again without the capital to do it was just really tough," he said. "I'm going to step back and take a breather. I want to find something and retool my thought processes and move forward. That's all I can really do."
So will he continue to support Chicago's food truck movement that he helped get going? "I hope to keep fighting and that's part of it," he said. "Sometimes you have to fail to succeed." It does sound like he needs a few days off.
Matt Maroni [Photo: Metromix]