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Village of Rockville Centre to host first 'Friday Night Bites' food truck night

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Food trucks aren’t a new concept, but they are often innovating and carving out new spaces in the food world, including in Rockville Centre.

Local families and food truck owners are launching an event on Maple Avenue’s Village Green called Friday Night Bites, where residents can enjoy a variety of cuisine, live music and quality time outside.

Marc Derkatch, a co-owner of Neapolitan Express Long Island, is organizing the gathering with business partners Lucia and Tim Petrone, along with Kathy Baxley, the village’s deputy mayor. Their first food truck extravaganza, set for May 17, from 6 to 9 p.m., will feature trucks serving ice cream, pizza, empanadas, vegan eats and Greek food.

“Food trucks are really big right now,” Derkatch said. “We thought it was a great idea to bring people together on a Friday night. It’s something the community needed.”

Derkatch, a lifelong Rockville Centre resident, owned Busco’s Deli & Catering — previously on North Long Beach Road in the village and now under new ownership on Merrick Road in Oceanside — for 30 years before retiring. Meanwhile, Tim Petrone, who worked for Derkatch at the deli as a teenager, is now a natural gas trader. A few years ago, Petrone decided to invest in Neapolitan Express in Manhattan, an eco-friendly pizza truck business with trucks that run on clean energy.

Soon after, he and his wife, Lucia, were asked if they wanted to bring a Neapolitan truck to Long Island. The couple brought Derkatch on board for the project and now owns two trucks — one stationed at Shoregasboard on the Long Beach boardwalk and the other traveling to events around Long Island.

“People love to come out and sample all different types of food,” Lucia said. “It inspires street food of different nationalities and cultures coming together.

“People may choose that night for their family fun or entertainment, instead of staying in or going to a restaurant, to come and sample foods, listen to the music and be with other people,” she added about Friday Night Bites.

Neapolitan Express sells several types of non-GMO pizza, including margherita, buffalo chicken and vegetarian truffle, as well as several sandwich options. The Neapolitan team has met other local truck owners along the way, including Marco and Marcia Proano, fellow Rockville Centre residents and owners of Empanada Queen, who will join them for the first Friday Night Bites.

The Proanos have lived in Rockville Centre for more than 20 years. After buying a house in the village in 2008 and having a son, they started looking for a space to open an empanada business.

“My wife loves cooking,” Marco said. “We were always hosting parties with family and friends, and they always said, ‘Bring empanadas to the party!’ We said one day we would make our own business.”

With no luck finding a store, Marcia stumbled upon a truck for sale in Island Park. They bought it, restored it and launched their business in 2016. The bright red truck sits on Sunrise Highway and Milburn Avenue in Baldwin, feeding lunch specials to more than 100 customers daily, Marco said. He noted that many people may mistake food trucks as unsanitary, but in reality, it’s the opposite. Empanada Queen has a full kitchen, bathroom and windows, he said.

“When you get close and see how people manage and run the truck, you feel comfortable,” Marco noted. “As soon as you try it you fall in love and know you can’t find that food anywhere else.”

The truck sells many types of empanadas, including beef, chicken, roast pork, mac and cheese, shrimp and veggie, as well as some dessert empanadas. Marco said he’s excited to bring Empanada Queen to his local community for one night a month at Friday Night Bites. In addition to May 17, food truck nights are scheduled for June 7 and Aug. 2.

“Hopefully it goes well,” Derkatch said, “and then we can switch it up and have more trucks every month.”