The mecca for authentic Italian food in Boston lies in the North End, often called “Boston’s Little Italy.” Daniele Bocchieri, a sophomore at Northeastern University hailing from Milan, Italy, knows this to be true more than most.
“I was constantly looking for Italian food,” Bocchieri said about his arrival in Boston, “but the only way to get an Italian taste would be by going all the way to the North End.”
For Bocchieri and other students, he said, the trek isn’t always convenient. Finding his campus a train ride away from the North End, Bocchieri began to wonder how, and if, he could get good Italian food more centrally located to his neighborhood.
So came Sapori Pinocchios, the mobile business Bocchieri is starting with Nikolai Romanov, a sophomore at Northeastern. The plan, Bocchieri said, is to cart a bike around his campus and the downtown area with pastries and Italian finger food.
The two will fill their cart with Modern Pastry items, including, among other delicacies, cannolis in the morning and arancini in the afternoon. Bocchieri said he hopes to expand the business to offer late-night service, but the main goal is to offer accessible food that tastes good.
“[Modern Pastry’s] pastries are the best I’ve tried here in Boston,” he said.
The mobile unit will resemble something along the lines of a bike with a stocked shelf attached to it. The idea for the traveling unit was developed by the Italian company Business on the Road. Bocchieri and Romanov will be the first people in the United States to use this technology, Bocchieri said.
They settled on using a bike after conducting their own research, in which they found it to be the best way to do business. One of the main advantages, Bocchieri said, is the agility the unit brings.
“The bike can easily go anywhere,” he said.
Bocchieri plans for the truck to be geared up and ready by spring. And because he knows Boston weather is unpredictable, the truck will only be seasonal.
When it does open, Bocchieri said he’s expecting to launch the business on Northeastern’s campus and then move it to other areas, including other college campuses, Back Bay and the Financial District.
By the end of the business’s second year, Bocchieri said he’d like to have seven fully operating bikes carting around Boston with Italian food.
“Definitely no less,” he said. “It can be more, if the demand hopefully grows.”
And from what he’s encountered so far, the possibility of more bikes isn’t out of reach.
After Bocchieri and Romanov presented the idea at their school’s Husky Startup Challenge earlier this year, floods of people came to check out the business and eat the samples.
“We had 300 samples of cannolis and 300 samples of arancini, and they went in half an hour,” Bocchieri said. “They just didn’t come for the food. They actually came there and asked questions.”
He also said many students seemed “interested in the business.”
As for Boston University students, many jumped at the idea of a mobile Italian eatery, with some noting that the trip to the North End isn’t as convenient as they’d like it to be.
“It’s definitely a nice idea because I know people that make a trek to the North End to get the food,” said Jillian Richardson, a senior in the College of Communication.
But Richardson said there may be one downfall to making something so accessible.
“I know at Harvard, they got a Mike’s Pastry last year, and people feel like it’s less special because they can get it constantly,” she said.
Jessica Graves, a freshman in the College of Fine Arts, said though she’s never seen food on a bike before, she’d still eat from the mobile shop because of its accessibility.
“The trip to the North End is far,” she said.
Others said that while they’d definitely enjoy a service like Sapori Pinocchios, the journey to Boston’s Italian food scene isn’t as time-constraining as others may think.
“The advantage of BU is it’s easy to go into the city and the North End,” said Hrishi Somayaji, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. “We’re on top of the T, so there’s quick and easy transportation. I don’t think there’s a gap in terms of … accessible Italian food.”
But even with the North End just a subway ride away, Somayaji said he’d happily stop by the closer food bike.
“I would for sure be a customer,” he said. “And I would tell everyone I knew about it.”