Smoke on Wheels
With owner Dennis Sansone’s passion for spreading joy through food, The Simply Barbecue food truck feeds the Brunswick community.
Sure, Simply Barbecue likes to keep things simple, but that doesn’t mean this company lacks depth, flavor or quality.
Pitmaster and owner Dennis Sansone and his partner, Barbara Paolucci, have a passion not only for bringing good barbecue to their coastal community, but also for bringing a real sense of community to Holden Beach.
Before he retired and moved to southeastern North Carolina in 2011, Sansone lived and worked in New York and Vermont. When he left the Northeast, he also happily retired his snow shovel. What he brought with him to the South was a love for good food packed with good flavors — and his dream for many years to own a food truck.
Sansone, 68, grew up working in kitchens. But when he married and started a family, the chef’s life took away from family life, so he instead donned a UPS uniform for the next 21 years. However, his love for cooking still pulled on his apron strings. When he retired from UPS, he put his fire for cooking and smoking meats to good use first at The Horseshoe in Saratoga, New York, then in managing Tinney’s Tavern in Lake Desolation, New York, where his fall-off-the-bone ribs were known to sell out most days.
Sansone’s smoking talents were rekindled after he moved to southeastern North Carolina, where he’d smoke meats and prepare huge meals for his new neighbors at community get-togethers. And it didn’t take long for neighbors to encourage his culinary talents.
“Friends and family always joked that I should open a barbecue restaurant,” he says, “and bring my recipes to the public.”
In 2017 a plot of land on Holden Beach Road, in between BB&T Bank and Harbor Island Mini Golf, became the location Sansone would park his Simply Barbecue food truck – the first food truck in the Holden Beach area. Friends Mariann Pata and Dwayne Wilson bought the mini golf course earlier in 2017 under the name of Simply Friends LLC, and now they also play the roles of business partners.
“The food truck is actually an old car-hauling trailer that was set up in South Carolina as a food truck,” says Sansone. “I totally gutted it out and the only thing I kept was the actual smoker.”
Sansone says he makes everything in-house (or in-truck), including St. Louis-style pork ribs, pulled pork and beef brisket all rubbed in his own rub recipe and smoked with hickory in his six-rack smoker. He also makes his sauces (sweet and light-spicy vinegar) and sides, like coleslaw, potato salad, baked beans and corn bread.
“One of the best sides is the apple crisp dessert, a recipe I came up with because I’m not a banana pudding kind of guy,” he says. “Families will fight over it!”
Customers can choose to order Simply Barbecue’s smoked meats by the dinner, by the sandwich (half-pound of meat), or family meals to go in two, four or six portions. The food truck is usually open daily, but over the winter, Sansone cuts back his working hours to five days a week.
During Hurricane Florence, Sansone was forced to take some time off to evacuate to Florida. When he found out that the island lost power, he knew the food truck’s fresh food needed to be given away or it would be thrown out and wasted. Chris and Nikki Hutchinson, two of the few neighbors who decided not to evacuate, helped him find an outlet for his food — and a way to give back to the community he loves to feed.
“The Hutchinsons found out there was a municipal building in Holden Beach where all the first responders were staying and working out of,” says Sansone. “So they heated up and delivered enough food to feed about 50 people a good meal of pork, sauces and rolls.”
But Sansone doesn’t want that act of giving to seem like a big deal — it’s just the way he does things. He just likes to keep things simple and good and help the community when he can.
“Folks enjoy our food,” he says. “We’ll just keep trying to improve our appearance and experience. I mean, we started with a barren trailer parked in a lot.”
And, now, it’s simply success.
Hungry for Barbecue?
You can find the Simply Barbecue food truck at 3240 Holden Beach Road in Holden Beach. Find them online at simply-barbecue.com or on Facebook @simplybarbecue. Call them at (910) 712-4441.