Most Modestans wouldn’t necessarily expect the words “food truck” and “Dewz restaurant” to belong in the same sentence.
Why would they? Dewz, after all, is among Modesto’s most prominent fine dining establishments, not often synonymous with food truck fare. But there it is, a big, bold red truck motoring through the city most weekdays, with “Dewz on Wheels” emblazoned on it.
But before we intertwine them too much, the main name of this food truck is Big Bites No Crumbs Left, with those words clearly predominant – and it’s important to point out that while this mobile food purveyor has roots in the brick and mortar restaurant on J Street in downtown, the two actually are quite separate.
Dewz is part of the brand, but the motoring enterprise is its own business. The truck – celebrating its one-year birthday this month – is owned and run by Christine Aspesi, wife of Dewz co-owner Scott Aspesi, and Wilbert Gaxiola, a longtime employee at the downtown Modesto restaurant.
So how did Aspesi and Gaxiola go from Dewz to Big Bites? “My husband Scott ... came home one day and said ‘I bought you a food truck’,” Christine Aspesi said. “He said ‘I’ve got a partner for you, also’.”
Happily, it was a good fit. The couple long have been foodies, she said, looking for ways to combine that passion with a new business enterprise. And Gaxiola has been part of the Dewz family for nearly 20 years, starting as a dishwasher in high school and moving quickly up to server.
“I love food, I love to cook food,” said Aspesi, who originally is from Alabama and brings those southern flavors to the Big Bites menu. Gaxiola brings his own mark to the truck, she said, adding a little spice to some of the dishes.
Points of pride at Big Bites are its buttermilk fried chicken sandwich, a marinated tri-tip sandwich and its loaded steak fries – three menu mainstays and customer favorites. The menu also always includes a burger and a wrap, but they switch up ingredients on those from week to week.
My first order was a major bargain at any establishment, food truck or not, $4.32 for what they call a half-order of steak fries, but what was a more-than-filling lunch. These aren’t eat-with-your-fingers-fries – the fork they give you definitely is in order. They’re also delicious. Fried potatoes topped with jack and cheddar cheese, cubes of grilled steak and chopped green onions with their special fry sauce and a balsamic truffle oil glaze drizzled all over.
Honestly, if I wasn’t sitting in the office, I would have licked the bottom of the paper bowl to get the last drop of that sauce/glaze combo. That’s not pretty to admit, but it’s true.
I also tried the tri-tip sandwich and can report another major yum factor, with sauteed onions and red bell peppers, homemade barbecue sauce and meat piled high but sliced thin, giving it an almost melt-in-your mouth quality that isn’t always associated with this cut of beef.
The partners work with different spices, sauces and other ingredients when coming up with their offerings, trying out what works best together, Gaxiola said.
“When we did the buttermilk chicken sandwich, for example, we just played around with a bunch of different flours, different batters, different sauces,” Gaxiola said. “We just want it to be good, we don’t want it to be anything fancy ... just good old grubby food.”
“We definitely try to do everything homemade,” Aspesi said. “This is the kind of food you’d go to your mother’s house and eat.”
While it’s not mom’s house, customers are happy to follow Big Bites to wherever they’re parked on any given day. Social media gets the word out, with Aspesi posting the day’s location by 9 a.m. on Facebook and Instagram. Oft-visited spots are on Spyres Way, behind Valley Lexus’s McHenry Avenue location, and next to Sparkles Auto & Pet Wash on Coffee Road.
“We’ve built a lot of regulars already,” Gaxiola said. “We see a lot of customers two or three times a week – we’ve really been fortunate in that.”
Catering to their Big Bites customers is a hallmark, said Christine Aspesi, who happily adjusts any menu item to accommodate.
“I think the thing I like the most about it is just being able to talk to people every day,” Aspesi said. “We have a lot of returning customers and they become regulars so it’s kind of nice to see their faces every day and talk to them, I kind of look forward to that even more than being on the truck and cooking up the food.”
Big Bites, No Crumbs Left
When: Generally open 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays
Where: Various locations; check Facebook or Instagram for daily spots