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“Cooking for people is my love language,” says Nadia Santaniello Bucholtz, co-owner of Nadi Plates, an Italian food truck that debuted during the summer of 2020.
Santaniello Bucholtz grew up in a restaurant family, learning the ropes at her parents’ Italian restaurant in Michigan where she learned the ins and outs of restaurant operations from washing dishes, cooking and serving to running a banquet hall. From there, she branched out, pursuing work in the corporate world and eventually raising a family of her own.
When her husband, Scott, passed away from cancer at the all-too-young age of 51, Santaniello Bucholtz found herself at a crossroads. Her children were in college and she felt the need to explore her options. So when her son, Austin, beckoned her to move to Milwaukee, a city he surmised she would enjoy, she heeded his call.
Alongside her partner (now fiance) David Brown, Santaniello Bucholtz made her way to the Dairy State, where she weighed her options.
“I always wanted to do something in the food business,” she says. “But I wanted something that was uniquely mine. After looking at various options, I decided that I loved the idea of launching a mobile food operation that had the potential to go just about anywhere.”
“I literally drew out the food trailer that I wanted with sidewalk chalk, along with all the equipment I wanted inside so that I could envision the flow," she says. "The result is a trailer that’s very uniquely mine and custom-designed for how I work and how I cook.”
When the custom trailer arrived in Milwaukee from California, her son Austin designed the wrap with its Nadi Plates branding. Brown helped out by working on the truck and supporting Santaniello Bucholtz in any way that he could.
As time moved forward, the family business grew. Her son Zachary moved to Milwaukee and joined her as general manager for the business after he graduated from college. And currently her daughter Bianca is also helping out while exploring her options as a new college graduate.
Guests who pop by the truck will find a variety of Italian fare including hand-stretched pizzas with a variety of toppings. In fact, Santaniello Bucholtz says that the pizza holds a special place in her family’s collective hearts.
“My husband Scott’s favorite food in this world was pizza,” she says, noting that they named their sausage and onion pizza – the Scotty – in his memory. “That was the first pizza we sold when we opened our trailer.”
She pauses. “All day long we hear people saying ‘I’ll take the Scotty’,” she says, “And it’s such a nice reminder of Scott and the years we had with him.”
In addition to traditional pizza, Nadi Plates also serves up Pizza Fritas featuring super thin pizza dough that’s baked with toppings like cinnamon and sugar, tomatoes and basil or fresh mozzarella and prosciutto.
There are also hand-made calzones, arancini, Roasty Toasty Brussels sprouts, Italian nachos, deconstructed lasagna and Italian nachos featuring tortilla chips topped with housemade meat sauce, bechamel, green onions, tomatoes, black olives and parmesan cheese.
Since their launch three years ago, business for Nadi Plates has grown swiftly, particularly demand for catering events and weddings. So the brand recently launched a second trailer to meet demand.
We caught up with Santaniello Bucholtz, just ahead of Nadi Plates’ appearance at MKE Food Truck Fest on July 22, where they will be serving up arancini, Italian nachos, deconstructed lasagna and calzones (filled with cheese, pepperoni, sausage, ham, pepperoni and ham and spinach and ricotta cheese).
What type of food do you serve? Scratch-made Italian fare.
Do you offer vegetarian options? Nadi Plates’ pizza dough is vegan, so there are numerous options for guests who don’t eat meat. Examples include spinach and ricotta calzones, arancini, “Roasty Toasty Brussels Sprouts” and Italian nachos. Santaniello Bucholtz says they can also accommodate gluten-free diners when given the time.
Most popular item(s): “Our pepperoni calzone is definitely a favorite. We also sell a ton of our Italian nachos.”
Where can people find your truck this summer? Nadi Plates serves regularly at the Shorewood Farmers Market on Sundays, at Third Space Brewing on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and at the Umbrella Bar at The Roc Sports Complex in Franklin on Thursday evenings.
If you could park your truck anywhere for one day where would it be? “I live on the Lower East Side and we can’t park the truck anywhere in the vicinity. But I’d love to park my truck right in front of my house and feed all of my neighbors!”
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.