Zizzo dives into Portland food cart scene

Midfielder and friend open new space specializing in family recipe Italian fare

PORTLAND, Ore. – The grand opening of Zizzo’s FC, Portland Timbers midfielder Sal Zizzo’s foray into the food cart business, couldn’t have been more quintessentially Portland.

Much like the Timbers Army theme, there’s no pity when it comes to late fall in the Rose City. So there was Zizzo and teammate David Horst enjoying a cannoli downtown in the rain last week, along with a handful of hardy Timbers supporters and Italian comfort food fans, all braving the elements for the long-awaited opening.

“I wouldn’t say it’s the perfect weather for an opening, but you’ve got to start at some point,” Zizzo said in between signing autographs and posing for pictures as his fans huddled around the small, steaming food cart waiting for their orders. “There have been a lot of good fans coming out here and supporting it. It’s been a lot of fun so far.”

Zizzo announced in early October that he would be taking advantage of his family’s Italian restaurant background by jumping into Portland’s outdoor food cart phenomenon, along with his childhood friend Steven Wilson. Zizzo would be, not surprisingly, the face of the new venture, while Wilson was the man behind the stove.

Zizzo said getting it off the ground was a bit more challenging than he expected but was glad to finally be open.

“It’s a lot more work than I thought,” Zizzo said. “But I’m kind of the one behind the scenes. My friend Steven Wilson is kind of the one doing everything when I’m the one rehabbing and focusing on soccer. I’ve stressed him out a little bit over this whole process. But he’s doing a great job.”

Horst, who’s also still in town rehabbing nagging injuries, gave the meatball sub a thumbs up before Zizzo talked him into a cannoli. Zizzo said he expects the sweet pastry will be the cart’s biggest hit. The canolli shells are shipped from his uncle’s restaurant in San Diego, while Zizzo and Wilson came up with the cream filling.

“I think it’s going to be a hit here in Portland,” Zizzo said. “Everyone we’ve given them to has enjoyed it, so we’re excited about that.”

And judging by the built-in support – one Timbers supporter even tied his scarf to the cart’s awning – it appears Zizzo’s FC will be a success.

“It’s cool,” Zizzo said. “It’s fun to be a part of something, and the fans are so great here. It’s been easy to embrace this.”

Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at dcitel@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter @dan_itel.